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Cuomo Sets Vaccination Goal For Lifting COVID Restrictions, Keeps Indoor School Mask Mandate
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Holds Covid Briefing In New York City NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 10: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference on May 10, 2021 in New York City. It was announced that both SUNY and CUNY will require students to get COVID-19 vaccines before the next academic year. (Photo by Mary Altaffer-Pool/Getty Images) Pool / Pool via Getty Images
Mary Altaffer-Pool/Getty Images

Democratic Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that most COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted when 70% of New Yorkers have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, but the indoor mask mandate for schools will remain in place.

Cuomo tweeted on Monday, “Most remaining COVID restrictions will be lifted when 70% of adult New Yorkers have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. We’re only 1.4% away from hitting that goal. Get vaccinated.”

State health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker sent a letter to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky last week that seemed to suggest the state would lift its indoor mask requirement for adults and students in schools and camps if it did not receive an objection from the CDC. 

“As we continue to work to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and balance reopening with safety, New York State strives for consistency across and between settings with similar risk levels and populations,” the letter reportedly began. 

“The current CDC guidance for K-12 schools recommends a requirement for ‘consistent and correct use of well-fitting face masks with proper filtration by all students, teachers, and staff,’ it continued. “There is no distinction between mask wearing for indoor versus outdoor activities (except for a vague reference to sports) and it does not address vaccinated individuals.”

“As many camps take place on school grounds, both serve school-age children, and the end of the school year/start of the camp season both occur in June, New York State plans to align our school and camp mask guidance,” Zucker wrote. “If there is any data or science that you are aware of that contradicts moving forward with this approach, please let me know as soon as possible.”

New York education officials later clarified the policy in a letter, saying, “… schools should continue to operate under their existing procedures until further notice … No changes have been, or will be, made by the Executive until after Monday, June 7, to afford the CDC an opportunity to respond to the letter.”

As NBC 4 New York reported, “On Monday, Cuomo said the CDC didn’t plan to update its mask guidance for several weeks. In the interim, New York state is allowing schools to lose their mask mandate as it relates to the outdoors, regardless of vaccination status. For now, they will remain protocol indoors across the state.”

Cuomo tweeted Monday about the topic, writing, “NEW: NYS schools will no longer be mandated to require that students wear masks outdoors. The individual decisions will be up to local school districts.”

“The numbers show that the risk of transmission by children is extremely low, especially in this state, which has an extremely low positivity rate. We spoke with the CDC, and since they’re not going to change their guidance for several weeks in New York State, we’re going to modify the CDC guidance and allow schools to choose no mask outside for children,” Cuomo said Monday. “We’ll leave that up to the local school district and we spoke to the CDC, which has no objection.” 

“It’s very important that people understand the logic between these decisions and that they’re rational and based on the science and the data,” the governor added. “We have a disconnect right now between the school guidance and the camp guidance, and it’s important to rectify it because if people don’t think the rules are logical, then they’re not going to want to follow the rules.”

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