The head of the nation’s largest teachers’ union applauded New York State’s decision to allow adults to not wear masks while keeping public school students masked up, saying the governor is “doing it absolutely the right way.”
Appearing Thursday on CNN’s “Newsroom,” American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten was asked about her opinion on the ongoing trend of states phasing out mask requirements for public schools. She replied that it confuses teachers, students, and parents when their governors call for an off-ramp for masks but the federal government still recommends universal masking in schools.
Weingarten, whose organization has been advocating for school mask mandates over the past two years, said she agreed with New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s approach to the issue.
“I think I’m just going to lift up the one governor who I think is doing it absolutely the right way … Gov. Hochul in New York,” she said, noting that the governor “listed the four or five different things” to determine whether schools should keep masking students instead of joining other states to announce an end date to school mask mandate.
Hochul, a Democrat, announced Wednesday that New York will lift the statewide mask mandate for businesses and most indoor public settings, except in certain areas where people congregate, including public transit, correctional facilities, child care, and nursing homes. However, the mandate in New York schools will remain in place at least until early March.
The governor, who has not been satisfied with the number of New York children who’ve taken COVID-19 vaccine shots, said public school districts will distribute testing kits for students to use at home when the mid-winter break ends next week. After that, the state will consider whether to end the school mask mandate.
“After the break, after we have kids tested, we are going to make an assessment that first week of March,” she said.
Of all age groups, those under 18 are the least likely to get severe cases of COVID-19.
Hochul’s decision is facing pushback from parents across the state, including Daniella Jampel, a Democrat and founding member of the “Keep NYC Schools Open” movement. Jampel’s group was founded in November 2020 when the United Federation of Teachers, an AFT affiliate, pushed to shut down the city’s entire public school system because the citywide average COVID-19 positivity rate surpassed a 3 percent threshold.
“Starting today, maskless NYers can go to grocery stores, pharmacies, movie theaters, and just about anywhere else. Our kids, however, will spend 7 hours behind a mask, struggling to hear their friends and understand their teacher,” Jampel wrote on Twitter, calling on fellow New York parents to call Hochul and demand immediate end to school mask mandates.