NY ends indoor mask mandate in schools, camps but not NYC

New York has made a major change to its mask guidelines for schools and camps. 

Beginning Monday, the state is allowing school districts to wave the mask mandate for students outside of the building. However, the New York City Department of Education told FOX 5 NY that the city will continue to require masks inside public schools. Schools on Long Island and some districts in the Lower Hudson Valley are following suit.

"The current CDC guidance for K-12 schools recommends a requirement for ‘consistent and correct use of well-fitting face masks with proper filtration by all students, teachers, and staff.’ There is no distinction between mask wearing for indoor versus outdoor activities (except for a vague reference to sports) and it does not address vaccinated individuals," New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a letter to CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky.

In the letter, the state says it will align its school and camp mask guidance in the following ways:

  • Mask use will be strongly encouraged indoors, but not required for students, campers, and staff/teachers/counselors who are not fully vaccinated
  • Outdoors, masks will not be required, although students, campers, and staff/teachers/counselors who are not fully vaccinated will be "encouraged" to wear a mask in certain higher-risk circumstances
  • Both indoors and outdoors, students, campers, and staff who are fully vaccinated will not need to wear masks
  • Schools and camps may choose to implement stricter standards

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"If there is any data or science that you are aware of that contradicts moving forward with this approach, please let me know as soon as possible," the letter concludes.

The announcement comes as New York marked its second-straight day of record low single-day and 7-day COVID-19 positivity rates. 

"Today’s lifting of the mask mandate in schools will finally put the decision in the hands of the educators and parents who know their children and particular circumstances best. I’ve been pushing for this change and I am excited that our protocols are moving to match the tremendous progress we have made," said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.

Statewide positivity rates have dropped to just 0.42% in New York, while the seven-day average is 0.56%, continuing a two-month-long decline. 

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"We're working night and day to beat back this pandemic and reach the light at the end of the tunnel, but the key remains vaccinations and we need to get as many shots in arms as possible in every corner of this state," Governor Cuomo said in a statement. "Our numbers are trending in the right direction and much of the economy has been reopened but we cannot lose sight of our vaccination goals. For everyone who hasn't yet been vaccinated, remember that you don't just protect yourself with the shot — you protect family, friends and our state, so make an appointment or walk into a site today."

Nationally, for the first time since March 22 of 2020, the United States recorded less than 10,000 new daily COVID-19 infections this week.