Republican gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin on Wednesday urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state officials to no longer require kids in school wear masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus amid rapidly falling case numbers statewide.
The call to unmask kids comes as pandemic-related restrictions for vaccinated people are being lifted across New York. The state has backed recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that have largely ended mask guidances for spaces indoors and outside, with some exceptions, such as medical facilities, homeless shelters and public transportation.
Zeldin, a Long Island congressman, said those guidelines should include students in school are attempting a return to normalcy after more than a year of disruption.
“If Governor Cuomo would trust the science and use basic common sense, he would lift the mask mandate on New York's school children today. Our kids have suffered too much already throughout this pandemic in so many destructive ways, developmentally, mentally, emotionally and physically,” he said. “No one is more desperate for and deserving of a return to normalcy than our youngest generation."
Children are generally considered less likely to spread COVID-19, though were among the last age groups to qualify for vaccinations in the state and as a result have the lowest vaccination rates. Kids age 12 and older can receive a COVID vaccination in New York.
Cuomo on Wednesday acknowledged some outdoor mask requirements could be reconsidered, though pointed to federal guidance that remains in effect for kids.
"We follow the CDC guidance, and it's very rare that we differ with the CDC," he said. "I have raised before that the mask mandate outside for students seems a little extreme to me, and we're talking to the CDC about it."