Hochul lifts mask mandate in schools, starting on Wednesday

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 February 2022 at 3:26 pm

Gov. Kathy Hochul, citing a 98 percent decline in Covid-19 cases since the Omicron peak in early January, announced today that a statewide mask mandate for schools will be lifted beginning on Wednesday.

Hochul said the state is moving in the right direction in the fight against Covid.

New York is the top-ranked state for fully vaccinated teenagers and ranks second for vaccinated children ages 5 to 11.

The number of pediatric Covid cases is also at its lowest 7-day average since July, before the start of the school year, Hochul said.

Hochul previously lifted the mask mandate for indoor pubic places, not including schools, on Feb. 10.

Schools have been closed the past week with February break but they reopen on Monday. They start back up following updated guidance from federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC updated its community Covid spread levels to three categories: low, medium and high. The CDC calculated the levels by considering hospitalizations, hospital capacity and the number of cases in each county. That new system put Orleans in the medium category. Before it had been considered at the high level of community spread.

The CDC’s said it would only recommend masks indoors in public, including schools, at the highest level of community spread. The CDC did recommend immunocompromised people and those in contact with them continue to wear masks.

In Genesee and Orleans counties, the number of Covid cases from Feb. 16-22 in both counties totaled 112. That dropped 95 percent from the pandemic high of 2,703 cases at the peak of the Omicron surge from Jan. 5-11.

State Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt issued this statement following Hochul’s announcement:

“The unmasking of our school children is a long overdue victory for kids and parents, educators, and common sense.

“It is time to put my resolution up for a vote, end the unnecessary statewide emergency, and end all Albany mandates. Our colleagues across the aisle have refused to act – it’s time that we take this up for a vote this week.

“It’s time to restore checks and balances, and make sure no Governor can do this again. We must empower people, not politicians.”

Mickey Edwards, Albion school district superintendent, issued this statement: “Albion Central School District will follow state guidance and make masks optional for out students and staff on that day (March 2).

“Masks and at-home Covid tests will still be available at the schools for anyone who wishes to take advantage of them.

“Thank you one and all for your support of our children and schools. We look forward to seeing everyone back on campus tomorrow.”

Sharon Smith, interim superintendent at Lyndonville Central School, posted this statement on the district website:

“As of this Wednesday, March 2, 2022, masking in NYS schools is optional.

“We will have available high quality masks for any student, faculty and staff member who may want one.

“Thank you, one and all, for your support of our children and our schools.”

Mark Kruzynski, Medina Central School superintendent, posted this message on the district website:

“Governor Hochul announced that the NYS Mask Mandate for schools will be lifted, effective Wednesday, March 2.

“Therefore, beginning Wednesday, March 2, masks will be optional for all students and staff at the Medina Central School District buildings.

“We will have masks available for anyone who would still like to wear a mask.

“Thank you for your continued support.”