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New York mask mandate at daycares, summer camps could prompt legislative action

Criticism to the New York State mandate has drawn reaction from both Democrats and Republicans wanting to see the guidance reversed or revised.

LOCKPORT, N.Y. — Calls are growing louder to reverse New York State guidance that says children 2 years old and older in daycare centers and summer camps must wear masks.

Many of these children are not eligible to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers say they want to see changes to the guidance, which caught both parents and child care providers off guard.

"It’s just really hard to think of a 2 or 3-year-old stuck in a mask for nine hours a day. That’s kind of harsh," said Jeannie Morse, owner of Little Rascals Child Care Center in Lockport.

There’s been widespread reaction from parents and child care providers to the state’s new mask mandate for day cares and summer camps.

The guidance, which is in line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says children ages 2 and up need to wear masks, unless they’re doing things such as eating, drinking, swimming or sleeping.

The mask mandate has been put in place for children and staff who are not vaccinated.

Last summer children were not mandated to wear a mask. 

"Most people were understanding there were a few parents that were pretty upset about it, felt that nine hours in a mask for a child was not reasonable," Morse said.

At Little Rascals Child Care Center in Lockport on Friday, 2 On Your Side found kids, even 2-year-olds, doing just fine with a mask.

"I would’ve never though the 2s would’ve left it on," Morse said.

Criticism to the mask mandate has drawn reaction from both Democrats and Republicans wanting to see the guidance reversed or revised.

"I think the governor should do the right thing and rescind this directive, or explain why it’s necessary," said State Senator Rob Ortt, a Republican. 

Knowing that the days are numbered here just in terms of days left in the legislative session, what realistically could be done to revise this guidance or get it reversed?

"A simple vote, just like the curfews or the food with the alcohol, a simple majority vote of a concurrent resolution by the Senate and the Assembly," Ortt said.

State Senator Tim Kennedy, a Democrat, supports the mandate.

Is there anything that New York State could consider about maybe granting an exemption for 2-year-olds or 3-year-olds?

"These are still issues we have to deal with. We still have to protect our children. We still have to protect our families, and following the science and following the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control is the right thing to do," Kennedy said.

The guidance from the state allows for kids to take masks off outside if they can’t tolerate the mask while doing a physical activity.

Some daycares say that is realistic, others say not so much.

We’ve heard of some parents pulling their kids out of day cares because of the new guidance.

Assembly Member Monica Wallace, a Democrat, says she would like to see the mandate revised with input from providers.

Assembly Member Patrick Burke, also a Democrat, released this statement:

“As a father of three, the idea that children as young as two years old would be required to wear masks at summer camps and daycare is frustrating and nonsensical. At a time where we are easing mask restrictions statewide and seeing the lowest Covid infection rates in months, this new guidance came as a shock to me as well as many parents and childcare providers.

“I want to make it perfectly clear that I am opposed to the new, restrictive mask guidelines that are a sharp change from the guidance daycare providers have been following throughout the pandemic. New York State must work with camps and childcare providers to find a solution that both makes sense and keeps our kids safe. I am fighting against this policy and I will take any action I can to reverse this misguided decision.”

State Senator George Borello, a Republican released this statement: 

“Just when New Yorkers thought we were moving beyond the reach of the Governor’s crazy, arbitrary edicts, he struck again yesterday with the outrageous mandate that children as young as two years old in daycare settings must wear masks.

“Child care providers and parents are understandably confused and upset with this sudden change as COVID infection rates are near record lows and mask wearing mandates are disappearing. Not even at the height of the pandemic were toddlers in day care forced to wear masks, because of the obvious difficulty of enforcing such a rule as well as the low risks for the younger population.

“Day care centers have been sent into a frenzy communicating these new rules to angry parents and trying to determine how they will make this ludicrous concept work.

“If the Democrat majorities in the Senate and Assembly hadn’t extended the Governor’s emergency authority, this insanity would have been a thing of the past. Instead, here we are, trying desperately to move forward and free ourselves from senseless restrictions, while our Governor continues to hold us back to maintain his power. If the administration doesn’t rescind this, the Legislature’s leadership must, as soon as possible."

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