ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – New York State and Pennsylvania will require all students in grades kindergarten to 12th – both in private and public schools – to wear a mask while in class.
On top of mask mandates, both states are urging everyone in school who is eligible to get their COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.
New York is taking it a step further and implementing mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated school staff, according to an announcement from Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Depsite this, local health experts emphasize that the plan to return students back to school isn’t foolproof. Infectious Disease expert Dr. Justin Nistico of Arnot Health told 18 News that keeping infections out of the classroom will be difficult, if not impossible.
“To avoid all illness together is going to be almost an impossible task,” Dr. Nistico said. “It’s gonna be tricky because of the fact that younger children less than 12 don’t really have any access to getting vaccinated at this time, but it is coming.”
According to the CDC, the majority of infections inside classrooms come from students and staff who don’t wear masks. The CDC continues to emphasize that wearing a mask – at school and otherwise – can drastically reduce the spread of COVID-19.
All of this comes amid fears of a fifth wave, one the country would likely see as the winter months creep in.
“It’s a concern but we have time to increase the vaccination rate between now and winter,” Steuben County Public Health Director Darlene Smith said. “I’d like to think we’ll see a definite uptick in the number of folks who seek a vaccination, so hopefully we can avoid that.”