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Hochul orders mask mandate for daycare centers, other New York State-regulated facilities

The governor says she is disturbed by national news reports of children and adolescents contracting COVID.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Gov. Kathy Hochul today announced a COVID-related mask mandate that former Gov. Andrew Cuomo tried and almost immediately retreated from earlier this year.

Hochul announced that starting Thursday, masks must be worn by everyone age 2 and older in daycare and childcare facilities across the state.

When Cuomo made a similar announcement in May, the public outrage was so fierce that he rescinded the order days later.

“If you’re watching the national news, the scariest announcement coming out every single morning is the number of children now contracting COVID,” Hochul said.

According to a news release from the Governor’s Office, the new restriction, regardless of vaccination status, also covers a wide array of state regulated facilities, including “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.”

There are over 500 childcare and daycare facilities in Erie County. All of them are required to be compliant with the new rule, which will be a strain, says Kalie Donaldson of the Child Care Resource Center.

“It is most challenging for the youngest," Donaldson said. "But parents can help at home by having conversations with their children, practicing their mask-wearing, and making sure they are as prepared for this as possible.”

Donaldson also wonders if the new mandate may complicate the chronic problem of understaffed daycare centers.

“There’s been a lot of history of trouble finding staff of child care programs because child care providers are low-paid workers with a lot of responsibility and COVID has sort of exacerbated the situation,” Donaldson said.