COVID in schools: Expect mask mandates, vaccine requirements statewide, NY Gov. Hochul says

Coronavirus

Students wear protective masks as they arrive for classes at the Immaculate Conception School in the Bronx on Sept. 9, 2020. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

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NEW YORK — Safely reopening schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic is a top priority for New York’s newly sworn-in Gov. Kathy Hochul.

The governor on Tuesday outlined several ways she plans to ensure children safely return to the classroom in September, including plans for a mask mandate and vaccine requirement.

“I’m ready to get to work as your governor to solve the big problems that this state faces. Your priorities are my priorities, and right now, that means fighting the delta variant,” she said. “None of us want a rerun of last year’s horrors with COVID-19, therefore we will take proactive steps to prevent that from happening.”

Hochul said she directed the state Department of Health to implement a universal masking policy for anyone entering school buildings.

The state is also working toward implementing a program requiring the COVID vaccine or weekly testing for all school personnel across New York.

“To accomplish this in New York, we need partnerships with all levels of government and I’m working now on getting this done,” Hochul added.

New York City announced on Monday its public school teachers and staff need to be at least partially vaccinated by Sept. 27. There is no testing option.

Additionally, the state will launch a convenient and widely available back-to-school COVID testing program for students and staff, according to the governor.

Hochul said more “concise and consistent” school-related policies would be announced later this week.

“Priority No. 1: We get children back to school and protect the environment so they can learn and everyone is safe,” she said.

Hochul outlined her top priorities as governor during a virtual address to New Yorkers Tuesday afternoon, hours after she was sworn in to replace Andrew Cuomo following his resignation.

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