Onondaga Co. superintendents not shocked by NYS mask mandate inside schools

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV)– Just a few weeks ago the New York State Department of Health said they would not be issuing any formal reopening guidance for schools, leaving that decision up to individual districts. Now, less than a week into Governor Hochul’s administration, that’s all changed.

Late Friday night the DOH filed an emergency regulation requiring all students, faculty, and staff in both public and private K-12 schools to wear a mask inside school buildings.

This news didn’t come as much of a surprise for Onondaga County superintendents like Dr. Donna DeSiato, of East Syracuse-Minoa Central School District or Dan Bowles of North Syracuse Central School District. 

They said they were both anticipating guidance from her new administration and after a summer of constantly changing recommendations, DeSiato said this new requirement was welcomed.

“I think there was a lot of confusion out there with regard to who really had the final say,” she said. “It’s now very clear that it is required of all school districts and the overarching authority is the New York State Department of Health.”

This new state requirement didn’t change much for Onondaga County school districts that had already received recommendations from the Onondaga County Health Department and other medical professionals to mask up inside schools. 

This new requirement falls in line with what the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended for all schools nationwide and sticks with the three feet of social distancing that was implemented in some school districts at the end of last year. 

This reduction in social distancing is what allows schools to welcome students back to in-person learning five days a week which is what DeSiato and Bowles are looking forward to the most. 

“We’ve pretty much had a full year and a half to go through a lot of the things that you would call glitches and we feel that we’re pretty prepared to welcome our students back to five days, in-person learning,” Bowles said. 

DeSiato added that more mask breaks will be implemented into the school day this year and they will try to do as much outdoor instruction as the weather permits since masks are not required outside. 

This new state mask requirement also applies to people inside healthcare settings, adult care facilities, correctional facilities, detention centers, homeless shelters, and public transportation for anyone 2 years and older. 

You can read the Health Commissioners’ full determination letter here

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