Masks optional for summer school, state health department says

Alonzo Osche

Mandating face masks at summer schools is now at the discretion of individual school districts, under a relaxed rule issued Wednesday by New York State’s health department.

The announcement expands to summer schools the state’s policy for summer camps, where masking has been made optional.

“Given current low rates of COVID-19 transmission, schools/district may decide to implement revised masking policies” as issued last month for camps, according to the announcement, a copy of which was provided to Newsday by the department.

For now, the masking-optional policy does not cover fall schooling and beyond.

“The above information applies to the 2021 summer session only and additional information will be shared regarding the 2021-2022 school year soon,” the department wrote in a statement.

Elsewhere in the metropolitan area, whether masks are required for summer school is up to each district in New Jersey, which has set the same policy for the 2021-22 school year. But in Connecticut schools, masks were still required indoors in schools as of a July 1 update.

In a joint statement sent by outside public-relations agency Syntax, Nassau County Council of School Superintendents President Tonie McDonald and Suffolk County School Superintendents Association President Yiendhy Farrelly cited districts’ compliance and implementation of mandates and protocols since the beginning of the pandemic.

“We are pleased our efforts have enabled us to move into this next phase and look forward to receiving guidelines for the start of the 2021-2022 school year as soon as possible,” the statement said.

The statement did not say the extent to which Long Island’s nearly 125 school districts are or aren’t planning to lift local masking rules, or which already have ended the masking mandate locally.

On Wednesday, three people died statewide from COVID-19, according to figures released by the office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, including one Nassau County resident.

Meanwhile, in New York State, the testing-positivity rate has increased slightly. The seven-day average as reported Thursday is 0.68{20335960d828ac45ef5fde98a5aa7f4c1fb21de0715bafc997f46433d5bf3454} — compared with 0.65{20335960d828ac45ef5fde98a5aa7f4c1fb21de0715bafc997f46433d5bf3454} the day before and 0.58{20335960d828ac45ef5fde98a5aa7f4c1fb21de0715bafc997f46433d5bf3454} at the beginning of the week, according to the figures released by Cuomo’s office.

The seven-day positivity rate also has increased in New York City. It was 0.74{20335960d828ac45ef5fde98a5aa7f4c1fb21de0715bafc997f46433d5bf3454} on Thursday, Cuomo’s office said, up from earlier in the week.

But both statewide and in the city, the number of deaths and hospitalizations from COVID-19 remain relatively steady at levels far lower than during the worst months of the pandemic.

“What we’re seeing is, fewer folks are getting tested, understandably,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at his daily coronavirus news conference.

De Blasio added that the city was preparing to launch a nationwide campaign of TV and online commercials this summer to encourage tourism, an effort costing $30 million.

The mayor also announced that the city school system will initiate a New York City Universal Academic Recovery Plan to address learning loss suffered when school buildings were closed for most of 2020.

He said it includes a focus on literacy, “making our kids digital citizens for today and for the future,” as well as “universal career and college readiness and providing free, accessible support to make that happen.”

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