Monroe County likely to leave masking rules up to districts

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — March 7 is the day that the statewide mask mandate for schools in New York may be lifted by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Hochul said last week that she wants to get through February break and then offer testing kits to all students the week after. Then, depending on the infection rates, vaccination rates, hospitalizations and global trends, she and her health team will make a final determination.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean all students will be able to return to class sans a face covering. It’s likely the governor will leave masking decisions up to local counties.

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said he hears from parents every day about the mask-mandate in schools.

“There are some real[ly] strong opinions about this, I know I have kids in the school district as well so I interact with parents in schools just on a personal level,” he told News10NBC.

Bello said he thinks the timeline Hochul has laid out at this point, is fair.

“The governor’s announcement last week, that helps to provide that path to an off-ramp and I think it is the exact right approach because I think that’s what parents are looking for… is what’s a time frame, what’s a metric that we can get our arms around so that we can start planning for that,” he said.

Jennifer Lewke (News10NBC) – It looks like she (Governor Hochul) is going to toss it back to the counties so, will you have any policies county-wide regarding schools or are you gonna leave that up to individual districts?

County Executive Bello – So, at the end of the day we’ll see what happens with the numbers but probably with the individual districts. It’s probably what they are going to prefer compared to a blanket approach. I think all along through COVID we’ve been looking at more local control to every aspect and every district is going to be in a different position.

School districts across the county have been polling families about whether to make masking optional after Hochul lifts the statewide mask mandate. In some instances, it’s not an overwhelming majority in either direction.

That’s why the county still plans to distribute a half-million KN-95 masks it ordered for kids and teens. They should be available at local schools in the next few days.

“Even if the mask requirement goes away, there’s still an awful lot of parents and an awful lot of kids that are still gonna want to continue wearing a mask so, we need to make sure they have the right mask and it’s the most protective mask they can wear,” Bello said.