In not much more than a month, millions of New York’s school-aged children will be returning to the classroom. That has parents, kids, faculty, staff, and school administrators wondering what, if any, COVID mandates will continue to be imposed upon schools. At a July 20, 2022, media availability, Governor Kathy Hochul spoke to this matter. The Governor said:
“Right now, everybody’s going to ask about are our kids going to need tests or masks in schools. This was a big issue last year. Right now, we are saying they don’t. That we don’t currently based on today’s numbers, anticipate the need for masks in classrooms, but I’m going to reserve the right to return to this policy. If the numbers change, the circumstances change, and the severity of the illnesses changes.”
While there is reason for encouragement in Ms. Hochul’s remarks, there is also cause for concern. Gov. Hochul has continued to extend a state of emergency that grants her special powers for imposing COVID restrictions. For the moment, the Governor is indicating that students will not face a mask mandate this fall, but, by her own admission, that could change.
However, Jason McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, sees it unlikely that Gov. Hochul will reimpose a mask mandate this fall. He says, “The Governor understands the raw politics of her COVID protocols. It’s an election year and there is a very real chance that a red wave could sweep through New York. Gov. Hochul can’t fall back into unpopular measures that would only help her Republican opponent. I expect she’ll steer clear of anything that reminds New Yorkers of COVID lockdowns until after the November election.”
McGuire concluded by saying, “In addition, the last standing court decision regarding school mask mandates came from Nassau County. It found that the Hochul-imposed mandate was unconstitutional and invalid. I don’t think the Hochul Administration wants this case back in court.”
While the state is distributing millions of COVID test kits to schools ahead of the September start dates, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms was successful in keeping a COVID vaccination mandate from being imposed upon students. The next time this kind of legislation is likely to be considered is January 2023.