New Series of Universal Mask Mandates Announced by Hochul

J.M. Lesinski

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With the Delta variant and other mutations of the COVID-19 virus on the rise, it should come as no surprise that mask mandates have returned to New York state. Recently, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul announced new universal mask requirements created to protect New York state citizens against the Delta variant and recent surges in COVID-19 infections across the state.

"With the Delta variant on the rise, requiring masks at state-regulated child care, mental health, and substance abuse facilities is a key part of our broader strategy for slowing the spread of the virus, reopening our economy safely, and protecting vulnerable members of our population," stated Hochul. "For children under 12 who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated, masks are the best line of defense against COVID-19 infection. This new mask requirement ensures that children in our child care facilities receive the same protection as children in our schools."

The new mask mandate requires all children ages two and up, all staff, and all visitors at select New York state facilities to wear a face covering. The mask mandate applies to everyone medically able to tolerate the wearing of a face mask, regardless of that individual’s vaccination status.

"We have heard from many parents and residents of congregate settings asking that the state require masking because child care and congregate residential programs will not require that protection without a state requirement,” Office of Children and Family Services Commissioner Sheila J. Poole remarked of Hochul’s new mandates. “We want to keep all children and staff in child care programs, as well as staff and residents of congregate residential programs, safe from the spread of infection and wearing a mask is the best tool we have. Children want to be like the adults around them and will easily adapt to the mask wearing requirement."

The new requirement applies to facilities that are registered and licensed childcare centers, home-based group family and family childcare programs, after-school childcare programs, and enrolled legally exempt group programs through the New York State Office of Children and Family Services among many others.

"It is clear that masks help control and prevent the spread of infection,” said Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan. “Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, OMH has issued guidance for our State operated facilities and clinics as well as community-based mental healthcare providers recommending and encouraging the use of masks and other protective measures. I am very pleased that Governor Hochul has taken this step to establish and strengthen mask requirements that will protect healthcare workers, our patients and clients, and our communities from COVID-19."

The new mask mandates also apply to congregate facilities and programs through the Office of Mental Health (OMH), the Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS), the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), and the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA). These programs include certified residential and day programs, inpatient and outpatient mental health facilities, substance abuse programs, juvenile detention programs, juvenile residential facilities, congregate foster care programs, runaway and homeless youth, domestic violence and other shelter programs.

"Providing high quality substance use treatment in the safest possible environment has always been at the forefront of OASAS' work, especially during the coronavirus pandemic,” OASAS Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez noted of Hochul’s new mandates. “These mask requirements will ensure that individuals who are in our care are able to focus on their health and well-being, while protecting themselves and others from COVID-19."

The mandate in childcare facilities brings New York into federal compliance with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance issued back in July, recommending masks for anyone ages two and older not yet vaccinated against COVID-19.

"Ensuring the safety and security of the people we support is our greatest priority and Governor Hochul has shown her continued commitment towards achieving this goal with her call for universal masking for those who can tolerate masks,” stated OPWDD Commissioner Theodore Kastner, MS, MD. “As we continue to encourage staff to get the vaccine to keep themselves, their loved ones and the people we support safe, it is also important to continue following protective measures such as masking and other infection control protocols to keep our most vulnerable New Yorkers protected from severe illness or even death from the COVID-19 virus."

With the Delta variant’s highly contagious characteristics and the inability for children under the age of twelve to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, large increases in cases among children are becoming more and more commonplace. These protective measures aim to keep defenseless children in New York state safe during this turbulent time.

"We cannot allow our state to slide back to a time when the coronavirus spread through our communities nearly unabated,” OTDA Commissioner Mike Hein commented. “The science here is clear: Masking is a simple, unobtrusive way to significantly reduce the spread of this virus, including the highly transmissible Delta variant. We applaud Governor Hochul for taking a commonsense approach toward fighting the ongoing pandemic and ensuring those facilities licensed or registered by the state are taking the necessary precautions to keep the people they serve safe."

This is original content from NewsBreak’s Creator Program.

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Professional journalist for over five years, covering topics all up and down both coasts of the United States, including arts, music, food, politics, and culture. I have a B.A. in English from SUNY Fredonia with minors in Psychology and Creative Writing, as well as an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from California State University, Fresno.

Buffalo, NY
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