ALBANY, N.Y. — After calling for a statewide mandate that masks be worn at all times indoors during the school day, New York State United Teachers today said that in the absence of statewide action, county governments should mandate such a policy for school districts within their jurisdiction.

The union made the call after Orange County took exactly that step on Thursday, with County Health Commissioner Dr. Irina Gelman issuing a public health order requiring masks be worn in congregate school settings within the county.

“While some school districts are doing the right thing and requiring masks at all times, we still are seeing others who refuse to take this basic step to protect the health of students, staff and families,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “Orange County is taking a lead role in helping address the reservations that exist regarding reopening school buildings. We believe other county leaders should follow suit and address the concerns we’re still hearing from educators and parents.”

Last week, NYSUT sent a letter to state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker imploring the department to make the wearing of masks at all times indoors during the school day mandatory, except for appropriate break periods and in cases of medical accommodation. The union cited recent guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics that recommends the universal use of face coverings, as well as a recent change in Pennsylvania guidance to make the use of masks mandatory at all times during the school day.

More on NYSUT’s call for a state policy, including the letter to Commissioner Zucker, can be found here.

New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services, and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the AFL-CIO.