New York’s new governor, Kathy Hochul, made it clear in the days leading up to her ascension to the state’s highest office that she would like to see a statewide mask mandate for schoolchildren and their teachers.
Thank you, Governor. We need you to work toward, and enact, such a mandate, by way of the State Department of Health, in order to end the partisan bickering that we have seen at Board of Education meetings of late. Anti-maskers, extolling the virtues of personal freedom, clash with parents who are concerned that their children may be next to fall victim to the coronavirus, and often older teachers who are worried that they might get sick and perhaps die.
On June 15, then Gov. Andrew Cuomo, believing the vaccines had tamed the viral invader, lifted all Covid-19 restrictions. For the schools, that was a mistake.
Children under 12 are now most vulnerable to the disease because they cannot, as yet, receive the Covid-19 vaccines. Their only forms of protection are vigilance and masks. Kids tend not be vigilant, so, really, masks are it for them. Infection rates — and even hospitalizations — are soaring across the country among children. We have a sacred obligation to protect them.
That is the primary reason the state should require students to wear masks at all times in school. Otherwise, what we will get is a hodgepodge of rules. The Massapequa School District came out last week to say it would not require masks, but rather recommend them.
Recommend them? Who are officials there kidding?
Meanwhile, the Baldwin, Roosevelt, Jericho and Riverhead school districts have all said they would continue to require masks. Good for them. That’s the right thing to do.
No single Board of Education should have to make this decision, however. That’s why the state must step in.
In June, we thought we had beaten back Covid-19. Then along came its close cousin, the so-called Delta variant, which is significantly more infectious and potentially more deadly for the unvaccinated than the original strain of the disease. The variant had been with us for months, but it hadn’t really taken hold in New York until recently.
Let’s face it: We have a ways to go before we eradicate this disease. No one is suggesting that we return to the restrictions that we saw in the early days of the pandemic. We should, however, take every reasonable precaution to limit the spread of the virus. That begins with requiring masks for all students.