“We were incredibly disappointed and shocked when we got the guidelines last Wednesday that our children after 14 months of being unmasked are required now to be masked,” said On My Way Childcare Owner Peggy Fuentes.
Parents say it can be quite the challenge to get toddlers to mask up. “Two- and three-year-olds are still wearing diapers. How are they expected to keep a mask on?” said Tara Broderick.
There’s also concerns among providers about speech development. “We have students that, they’re concerned about developing stutters or other concerns that would potentially have longer term effects on them,” said Tiny Town of Colonie Daycare Owner Kristen Blais.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have spoken out against the policy. Democrat State Senator Michelle Hinchey says the Department of Health “needs to act immediately to reverse its new and unreasonable requirement.”
“If this was the scientific smart thing, where was this guidance? How come it hasn’t been in place for the better part of the last year?” said NYS Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt.
State Senator Tom O’Mara (R) released the following statement following a virtual “Unmask Our Kids” rally.
“Why now Governor Cuomo? The parents and child care providers we heard from today made it clear that this mask mandate for toddlers is absurd, impractical and, worst of all, endangers the development, health, safety, security, and well-being of our children. It’s another outrageous example of the damage being done by an out-of-touch governor, fixated on control, and blatantly ignoring science and medical facts. At a time when we are clearly turning the corner on this pandemic, Governor Cuomo decides to put our children right back in the middle of the fear and uncertainty that we have spent more than a year fighting to overcome. It is an abuse of power and if Cuomo won’t rescind it on his own, the Albany Democrats in control of the Legislature need to act immediately to end it.”State Senator Tom O’Mara (R)
The New York State Department of Health and New York State Office of Children and Family Services released a joint statement in response to the pushback.
We thank the providers who have worked so hard since the start of the pandemic to remain open to serve the families of those who could not stay home and we recognize their valiant efforts in serving working families who need quality, reliable and safe child care.
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 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.
We strongly encourage any remaining child care staff who have not been vaccinated to do so as soon as possible to prevent the spread of COVID.
The Governor has said the state is following federal guidance.