Governor Hochul Announces Mask Mandate For All Schools As Part Of Plan For A Safe Return To School
On her first day in office, Governor Kathy Hochul announced a new, comprehensive plan to help ensure a safe, productive return to schools this fall in the midst of rising COVID-19 numbers fueled by the Delta variant. As part of this plan, Governor Hochul has directed the New York State Department of Health to institute a universal mask requirement in all schools, public and private, as determined necessary at the discretion of the Commissioner. The Department of Health will issue the requirement through regulatory action established by the Public Health and Health Planning Council.
Governor Hochul will also pursue options to mandate vaccines for school employees or require weekly testing in the absence of vaccines, and will continue to work with the Department of Health, education stakeholders and the Legislature on establishing the mandate.
“As Governor, my priorities are now the priorities of the people of New York – and right now that means fighting the Delta variant,” Governor Kathy Hochul said. “My number one priority is getting children back to school and protecting the environment so they can learn safely. I am immediately directing the Department of Health to institute universal masking for anyone entering our schools, and we are launching a Back to School COVID-19 testing program to make testing for students and staff widely available and convenient. We are also working to require vaccinations for all school personnel with an option to test out weekly, and we are going to accomplish all of this by working in partnership with all levels of government.”
To help ensure testing is available to students as they return to school, Governor Hochul is using $335 million in federal funds to launch a new COVID-19 Testing in Schools Program in partnership with local health departments and BOCES in New York State outside of New York City. In addition, New York City has received $225 million directly to initiate a COVID-19 Testing in Schools Program there, for a total of $585 million in federal funding in New York State to support these programs.
Governor Hochul also launched an additional back-to-school COVID-19 testing program in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Rite Aid and BioReference to make testing more widely available for New York State public school students before the start of the 2021-2022 school year.
Testing appointments will be available to New York students in grades K-12 at the 115 Rite Aid drive-through locations. Students are required to pre-register online and schedule a time slot for testing. Students aged 17 and under must have parental or legal guardian consent and be accompanied by a guardian at time of testing in the drive- through. Digital results will be delivered to parents for students to bring to school. COVID-19 testing is voluntary and will be provided at no cost to the student’s family nor to the school district.
In addition to these new testing programs, New York State has available more than 4.3 million child-sized clothed face masks, about 10 million adult-sized clothed face masks and almost 55 million non-surgical face masks to provide to students and teachers in schools across the state.