ALBANY, N.Y. (WKBW) — New York State announced updated mask guidance for schools Monday.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced schools in the state will no longer be mandated to require that students wear masks outdoors. Local school districts will be able to make their own decisions.
NEW: NYS schools will no longer be mandated to require that students wear masks outdoors.— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) June 7, 2021
The individual decisions will be up to local school districts.
The state says the new mask guidance aligns with mask guidance for youth camps. Although it aligns with youth camp guidance outdoors, it does not align with youth camp guidance indoors.
"When they're outside of the school building in recess, etc., it's hot, they're running around, but they're outside, there is no mandate for masks outside. We'll leave that up to the local school district," declared Cuomo.
The CDC guidance encourages masks at youth camps indoors, they are not required. NYS did not make a change to its indoor mask guidance for schools Monday.
Friday, New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker issued a letter to CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky indicating that the state planned to alter mask guidance in schools Monday.
Sunday afternoon, the New York State Education Department sent an email to superintendents saying mask guidance for students would not be changing Monday. The email explained executive staff told the education department Dr. Howard Zucker's Friday letter to the CDC was to prompt a response and wasn't an indication guidance would change for Monday.
When asked about the state causing confusion for schools and families, Cuomo denied the issue.
"There was no confusions with the schools. We said on Friday we were asking the CDC for guidance and we would tell the schools on Monday what the guidance was," replied Cuomo.
But school teacher Joe Cantafio, president, West Seneca Teachers Association & Board member of NYSUT, disagrees and
says state created too much uncertainly and chaos for school communities regarding face masks in schools.
"This mask think right now is just so untimely. I think everybody is just trying to get through the school year," Cantafio stated. "To throw something out in the afternoon on a Friday, so all weekend every one is wondering really I think was a little irresponsible."
The New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) union called Friday's initial announcement "whiplash inducing".
"Why isn't NYSUT at the table on these decisions as well?" Buckley questioned
@coachcant @westsenecata @WestSenecaCSD Joe Cantafio addressing confusion over wearing masks in schools. @NYGovCuomo says students must continue to wear masks inside schools, but districts can choose NOT to wear outside. @WKBW pic.twitter.com/vbRcs2jn9M— eileen buckley (@eileenwkbw) June 7, 2021
"Perhaps it's because we have made clear that we believe that all the stakeholders, parents, students staff members -- everyone should be involved in this decision making," responded Cantafio.
As some parents continue to demand an end to mask wearing at schools, saying it's harmful to children, I reached out to family therapist Dr. Keith Klostermann for expert advice.
Klosterman, marriage and family therapist, works locally at Wheatfield Pediatrics and serves as a faculty member at Walden University.
“Are you experiencing or hearing any kind of affects that mask wearing is having on children?” Buckley asked.
“This is a great questions. You know I haven't seen any adverse effects of kids wearing masks, in fact I think for many it's been protective factor in the sense of them feeling safe,” Klostermann answered. “For a lot of them, having the mask is something that has been helpful just in terms of calming some of their fears and anxieties about getting sick.”
Klosterman says parents should focus on the "benefits" and "safety" of wearing a masks.
“Kids have been incredibly resilient throughout this whole pandemic,” Klostermann explained.