Hochul suggests ‘universal’ mask mandate for students to return to school

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QUEENS, N.Y. (WETM) – Kathy Hochul visited the Louis Armstrong School in Queens on Wednesday and suggested New York will need mask mandates in order for students to return to school this fall.

In response to a question whether there might be a special session of the state legislature this fall to address mask mandates, Hochul said “mask mandates is something the Department of Health has the authority to call for.”

She said she will assess the situation but did hint at a mandate, saying “I believe that we’ll need mask mandates for children to go back to schools. And that’ll have to be universal; it’ll be statewide.”

Under current state law, Hochul doesn’t have the power to issue a statewide mask mandate, but she would with support from the state legislature.

“In a matter of days, I’ll be able to say ‘we will have mask mandates.’ I just don’t have that authority at this time, and I’m don’t going to overstep.”

She went on to say that local school districts are looking to the state for guidance.

Hochul also clarified that there should be flexibility in lifting any mask mandates for individual areas, saying “my view is that there would not necessarily be a statewide time when they’re all lifted.”

But the Lieutenant Governor reaffirmed that “the number one answer” to beating the virus is getting New Yorkers vaccinated.

Last week, the state education department released guidelines for reopening schools after the state health department said it wouldn’t issue any guidance.

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