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Mask up

New York Teacher

Wearing a mask is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 and the highly transmissible delta variant. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that all students, staff and visitors inside school buildings, including fully vaccinated people, should wear masks at all times.

Following the CDC guidance, Mayor Bill de Blasio is requiring that all New York City public school children and staff continue to wear face coverings in school buildings this school year. And at Gov. Kathy Hochul’s direction, the state Department of Health on Aug. 24 issued an emergency regulation mandating that masks be worn inside all school buildings across New York State.

Yet in other states, mostly in the South, Republican governors have thumbed their noses at the scientific evidence and barred school districts from requiring this life-saving measure. They argue that parents should have the right to decide whether their children wear masks. These states need masks the most because their vaccination rates are so low.

The victims of these mask wars will be the students. The delta variant is highly transmissible and children under 12, who are not yet eligible for the vaccine, are especially vulnerable.

Although children are much less likely than adults to get seriously ill from COVID-19, more children were hospitalized with the virus in August than at any point during the pandemic. In New York City, case rates among kids ages 5 to 12 have risen to 141 per 100,000 people as of Aug. 14, up from 29 per 100,000 on May 29, according to city health data reported by Bloomberg News.

The U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights office will review school mask bans in Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah to determine whether those bans violate the rights of students with disabilities. And on Aug. 27, a Florida judge ruled that the state’s school districts can require students to wear masks.

Universal mask wearing is an essential part of keeping our school communities safe. New York City, thankfully, is doing its part.

Related Topics: Coronavirus