Public health officials increasingly call for universal masks in schools, some CNY superintendents follow suit

Local News

CENTRAL NEW YORK (WSYR-TV)– With school just a few weeks away and no official guidance coming from the New York State Health Department, Central New York superintendents are down to the wire trying to decide how to re-open their schools.

But now, local and county public health officials are sounding the alarm, making a strong recommendation that all schools require masks for students and staff regardless of vaccination status. 

A group of doctors at Upstate Medical University sent a letter to all Central New York superintendents on Wednesday urging a universal mask mandate inside schools as the delta variant continues to spread. 

“The Delta variant is here,” Dr. Katie Anderson, an infectious disease expert from Upstate and one of the doctors who signed the letter said. “We know it’s in Onondaga County and it’s increasing and this is coming right at a time when our kids are getting set to go back to school.” 

Dr. Anderson said while the vaccine is effective at preventing extreme sickness or death, vaccinated individuals can still get the virus and easily spread it to unvaccinated individuals. She added that since school kids younger than 12 still don’t have access to the vaccine, making everyone wear a mask regardless of vaccination status is the safest option.

This letter was followed by similar letters from the health departments in Cayuga and Chenango counties recommending the same guidance. Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon also endorsed this guidance in his press conference Thursday.

However, the final decision still lies in the hands of each school district and some have made their decision. 

Syracuse City School District announced on Wednesday it would require all students and staff to wear masks indoors and Oswego City School District announced the same on Thursday.

But not all school districts are following suit. Superintendent of Central Square Central School District, Tom Colabufo announced he will be requiring masks based on the current CDC transmission zone the county is listed in on a two-week rolling basis. 

“So those parents that want everybody masked up will at least be able to see when it increases that as, as do our restrictions with masking and then for the parents that always want to be able to have the choice they are they at least see that its fluid and it goes back down,” Colabufo said. 

He’s hoping this system will give parents more freedom in choosing whether they want their kids to be masked or not all while relying on the constantly changing transmission zone data. 

For now, Dr. Anderson said parents can help protect their kids by getting themselves vaccinated, wearing a mask, and social distancing. 

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