Monday, February 28, 2022

Changing to 'Optional' for Local areas and Individuals:
Statewide school mask mandate to end Wednesday, last vestige of mandates; many churches dropped theirs Sunday

The statewide mask mandate in K-12 schools will end on Wednesday. Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul announced the move in a press conference Sunday afternoon.

The governor said the state’s COVID-19 outlook has significantly improved over the last few months, and positivity and vaccination rates have reached a point where students in most schools can safely attend class without a mask on. The CDC’s recent announcement that people in most areas of the country can be inside in public safely without masks added extra assurance that now is the proper time to end the mandate, Hochul said.

The governor said she stands by her decision to implement the mandate, reflecting on the incredibly high rate of infection seen in December and January.

“The spikes in the infection rate really validated the rationale and logic behind ensuring that we had those masks in place through the spikes, especially the omicron variant,” Hochul said.

She said the testing regime being rolled out, where every student will take a COVID-19 test before returning to school after a week-long break on Monday, will give extra assurance that students can be safe without using the main COVID-19 spread mitigation strategy.

“We believe that by Wednesday, we’ll be able to have a situation where we’ll have the lifting of the mask requirement,” she said.

The change will apply to all K-12 schools and child care centers for children age 2 and older. Counties and cities will retain the ability to pass their own local mask requirements, something the governor said she expects will happen in a few localities and fully supports.

“There are some counties in the state where they have a higher rate of transmission,” Hochul said. “We will allow them the flexibility to determine what’s best for their county. We would encourage them to take a look at this and follow the CDC, but this will no longer be a mandate.”

She said individual students and parents retain the right to make their own masking decisions as well, and there will be zero tolerance for any bullying or harassment for those who do choose to remain masked.

Le Roy Central School Superintendent Merrit Holly, in an email and automated phone call to parents said beginning on Wednesday, masks will be optional for all Le Roy Central School District students, teachers and staff in all areas of the school, including on buses, in hallways, classrooms and for athletics.

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