Oneida Co. isn’t waiting for New York State before allowing schools to use face shields instead of desk barriers

Local News

UTICA, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — In an attempt to get more students in school more days of the week, Oneida County is allowing school districts to use face shields for students instead of standing desk barriers.

In updated guidance, Oneida County is leaving the decision up to each of its 16 school districts, but does include shields as an acceptable substitute.

As government health departments allow social distancing to be reduced, to allow more students in the classroom, guidelines require some sort of plastic barrier between students in addition to required mask-wearing.

For many districts, standing desk barriers will be used to accomplish the requirement. Onondaga County is purchasing barriers for its school districts.

After studying the issue, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente and his health department feel that the face shields better protect students. Picente tells NewsChannel 9 that the desk barriers only work when the students are leaning forward and shields will also benefit students on school buses and in hallways.

A spokesperson from the State Health Department to NewsChannel 9 writes: “Face shields are not listed in our school guidance as acceptable barriers at this time, but as the Commissioner has said, the school guidance is currently under review.​”

“Not listed” as “acceptable,” but the agency hasn’t clarified that they’re unacceptable.

Picente says, “The state likes to put us in the line of fire when they don’t want to make the decision. They did that on high-risk sports. Let’s be honest. They literally passed that over to us, the local governments, by saying: ‘you can go and do this, but your local health department has to approve it.’ So if we have to approve a high-risk activity, why can’t we approve what we think is possible in a classroom or on a bus.”

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