New York health officials will not require children in child care programs and summer camps to wear masks in a reversal of a guidance that sparked backlash from parents and state lawmakers in both parties.
The new directive, issued in a joint statement late Monday afternoon from the Department of Health and the Office of Children and Family Services, takes effect immediately for children in child care between the ages of 2 and 5.
"Both agencies understand how difficult it is to require the youngest children to wear masks, and have jointly agreed to revise guidance allowing child care providers to continue the practices and protocols that have been in place since the start of the pandemic by encouraging, not requiring, children aged 2-5 to wear masks, effective immediately," the agencies said in the statement. "The safety of the children in child care programs is of paramount importance. As more families are returning to work, New York State is investing federal funds in stabilizing the industry and expanding child care programs throughout the state, especially in underserved areas."
The full guidance for face masks at child care, summer camp and day camp programs released later Monday can be found here.
Child care staff that have not been vaccinated are encouraged to do so as soon as possible, officials said in the statement.
The mask guidance for child care was put in place at the same time New York accepted last week the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in most public settings.
The child care and summer camp mask move led to confusion for parents and calls from state lawmakers for its reversal. On Monday, lawmakers were relieved the change had been made.
"Now that makes sense!" Assemblyman John McDonald said in a tweet. "Glad to see the department heard the concerns and acted!"
Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt hours earlier in the morning called for its reversal with parents and child care providers.
"This mandate was never based in science or simple common-sense, especially at a time when he was signaling that mask wearing will soon be a thing of the past for many adults," he said. "It caused unnecessary frustration and confusion for providers and parents alike, and I’m glad to see it lifted."