It would be easy to plan ahead for the post-pandemic world if only the coronavirus didn’t leave us with two questions for every answer offered by health experts.
As state officials realized this week, uncertainty remains the abiding principle when it comes to dealing with COVID. After several days of confusion, officials Monday clarified COVID-19 rules about when public school students must continue to wear facial coverings.
Kindergarten through 12th-grade students in the state’s 700-plus public school districts no longer have to wear masks while outdoors, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, which streamlines mask-wearing rules for New York schools, high school athletics and summer camps.
The irony is that educators were left with a patchwork of contradictory regulations. School superintendents, teachers, parents, students and others expressed immense confusion about the changing rules after state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention informing the agency the state planned to change its rules with new guidelines going into effect Monday.
Vaccinated people are not required to wear masks at schools, and masks are strongly encouraged, but optional, for those who are unvaccinated, under the changed rules, according to the letter.
It was a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing. Cuomo said his announcement Monday made the guidelines official. The governor forgot that Friday he said officials would tell the schools what the guidance was Monday. Zucker’s letter dropped Friday afternoon without notice, causing confusion among school administrators, teachers and parents.
Republican lawmakers took advantage of this opportunity to rail against the Cuomo administration and its incompetence.
“One day you don’t have to wear a mask, the next day you have to wear a mask,” Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay said Monday. “Does anyone really know what’s going on?”
New York’s students, parents, teachers and administrators would be better off listening to the CDC. Officials did not recommend rescinding all mask mandates for kindergarten through 12th grade students indoors. The CDC, not the governor or the Department of Health, make a convincing case to keep the masks on indoors.