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District clarifies policies amid mask mandate

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After a year of taking precautions like mask wearing and social distancing, many were shocked to learn that fully vaccinated people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, could in most cases leave their masks at home.

Amid the news last month — along with the widened eligibility of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for children as young as 12 — parents began wondering about the policies of their children’s school districts. But with the last day of school approaching, students cannot ditch their masks just yet.

After a push from local lawmakers, school officials and parents, the State Office of Children and Family Services’ and the state Department of Health’s mask policies were updated on June 7 to allow school districts to lift the requirement of mask use outdoors. But students over 5 must continue to wear masks indoors. The update came after Gov. Andrew Cuomo walked back a statement that mask wearing indoors and outdoors would become optional.

In a special meeting on June 7, the East Meadow Board of Education adopted a resolution to make outdoor mask use optional. “I think that’s a terrific idea,” board President Matthew Melnick said.

Dr. John Zaso, an East Meadow pediatrician, said that for the time being, he supported making outdoor mask use optional as well. “There is very little Covid burden in the community, which is good,” Zaso said. “We’ve hit the herd immunity in Nassau County for adults with at least one dose of vaccine. So I’m very encouraged by that. And we’ve seen very little disease burden in the hospital. From a safety standpoint of the students, there is almost never a risk of transmission outdoors, especially in this weather.”

With 76 percent of Nassau County residents having received at least one dose of a vaccine, County Executive Laura Curran said she believed that it was up to parents and pediatricians to decide whether it is appropriate for their child or patient to wear a mask.

And when it came to students in school, she said, “It’s well past time for this decision to be put in the hands of parents and educators,” she said.

State Assemblyman John Mikulin signed a letter with fellow Assembly members on June 3 demanding that Cuomo “unmask our kids.” “I supported this letter and will continue to support this cause,” Mikulin said on June 8.

The American of Academy of Pediatrics currently strongly endorses mask wearing for those who are not fully vaccinated. Face masks can be safely worn, the organization wrote, by children ages 2 and older.