ALBANY (AP) — All workers at child-care centers in New York now must wear face coverings under a plan announced by Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday.
The Democratic governor said the requirement is effective “now” and applies to all staff and visitors at state-regulated child care centers.
Hochul cited the rise in COVID-19 cases among children and the lack of a vaccine for children under 12 years old.
New York already requires individuals to wear masks in schools, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, transportation hubs and certain healthcare settings like hospitals.
A few school districts in New York have announced lawsuits against the school mask mandate: leaders of at least one Long Island school board are arguing that Hochul and state health commissioner Howard Zucker lack the legal authority to mandate masks.
David Stewart, president of the board of directors of the Christian Central Academy in Erie County, has said the private school is suing to “defend our policies and position on God-given parental rights.”
Governors in New York have the power to suspend regulations in a state of emergency.
In spring 2020, state lawmakers gave former Gov. Andrew Cuomo the outright power to also pass new regulations — an authority that ended when the state of emergency expired this summer.
But Hochul has defended her administration’s decision to require masks at schools statewide by arguing that state government has always had authority to take sweeping steps needed to address a pandemic.
And she’s said mask mandates can keep kids in schools five days a week. The governor has also said mask mandates could be eased once infection rates decline and kids can get vaccinated.
About 62% of New Yorkers are fully vaccinated, with rates as low as 36% in rural Allegany County.
Hochul hopes to get more young people vaccinated: she’s raffling off 125 tickets to the upcoming Governors Ball Music Festival to individuals who get vaccinated at certain pop-up locations.
And she said she’s authorizing EMTs to administer COVID-19 vaccines to address anticipated staffing shortages as her administration prepares to roll out booster shots.
New York started seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations from July to mid-August, when rates began to plateau at levels far below the spring 2020 and winter 2021 peaks.
Hospitals reported nearly 2,500 confirmed COVID-19 patients as of Monday, up 50% from 1,650 as of Aug. 14.
An average of roughly 4,900 people have tested positive each day for COVID-19 in New York over the seven days through Monday. That’s up from as low as 307 in late June.