Nassau County Executive signs order leaving mask decision to schools

Newly sworn-in Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman signed an executive order on Thursday to give school boards the ability to decide if students should wear masks inside school buildings.

"We don’t need people in Albany telling us what we should be doing here in Nassau County," Blakeman said. 

Blakeman also signed two other orders - one that lets County workers choose whether they should mask up indoors and another reiterating that Nassau police and firefighters won’t enforce mask-related mandates inside businesses.

"They have far more important things to do than chase people around to see if they’re wearing masks," he said. 

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Blakeman’s move directly counters state law. Governor Kathy Hochul says she expects school boards to follow all legal requirements.

"We have a number of laws in place that. For people that have more experience in county government, would know that state government, state laws prevail," Hochul said. 

Mask wearing in school has been a long-debated issue. Some parents in Nassau County praised Blakeman’s move, while others said mask mandates are about public health, not politics. 

Pediatrician Dr. Brian Goldstein with Allied Physicians Group encourages districts to keep masks mandatory.

"I think mask-wearing is one of the critical tools that we have in our toolbox to try to avoid the spread of the omicron variant," Goldstein said. 

Blakeman also announced the distribution of KN95 masks to any school employee who requests one in Nassau. Both Nassau and Suffolk plan to continue distributing at-home test kits in the coming weeks.