On Friday, a letter from Haward A. Zucker, New York State Commissioner of Health stated, “The current CDC guidance for K-12 schools recommends a requirement for ‘consistent and correct use of well-fitting face masks with proper filtration by all students, teachers, and staff’. There is no distinction between mask wearing for indoor versus outdoor activities (except for a vague reference to sports) and it does not address vaccinated individuals.”

“On the other hand, current CDC guidance for youth camps ‘strongly encourages mask use indoors for people who are not fully vaccinated’ while stating that outdoors, ‘people do not need to wear masks [irrespective of vaccination status]’ although people who are not fully vaccinated are ‘encouraged to wear a mask in certain higher-risk circumstances’. In addition, it says ‘People who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks’ both indoors and outdoors,” he stated.

New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta issued the following statement Friday on the planned changes to mask guidance for K–12 schools.

“Announcing on a Friday afternoon that masks will now be optional for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people in schools starting Monday — with only three weeks remaining in the school year — is whiplash-inducing news. Short of any additional guidance from the state or the CDC before Monday, we implore school districts to closely evaluate local conditions and connect with their educators and parents to decide the best course of action for protecting their school community.”

The Little Falls School District posted the following on social media, “The district medical team will be reviewing the updated mask guidance from the DOH on Monday and issuing an update for next Tuesday. Please be patient as we review the new information. For Monday, June 7th we will maintain the current mask guidance. Please make sure your child comes to school wearing a mask for now.”

Zucker’s letter continued, “As many camps take place on school grounds, both serve school-age children, and the end of the school year/start of the camp season both occur in June, New York State plans to align our school and camp mask guidance as follows. In both settings, as a minimum state-wide guidance:

  • Indoors, mask use will be strongly encouraged but not required for students, campers, and staff/teachers/counselors who are not fully vaccinated.
  • Outdoors, masks are not required; students, campers, and staff/teachers/counselors who are not fully vaccinated are “encouraged” to wear a mask in certain higher-risk circumstances.
  • Both indoors and outdoors, students, campers, and staff who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks.
  • Schools and camps may choose to implement stricter standards.

On  Sunday, the state changed gears again, when they emailed guidance to the roughly 700 New York school districts asking them to wait until the U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention responds to a request made by the state on Friday.

“No changes have been, or will be, made by the Executive until after Monday, June 7 to afford the CDC an opportunity to respond to the letter,” the Education Department wrote. “If there is any data or science that you are aware of that contradicts moving forward with this approach, please let me know as soon as possible. We plan to make this guidance effective on Monday, June 7,” Health Commissioner Howard Zucker wrote to the CDC. “According to conversations with Executive staff, the intent of this letter was to obtain a response from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regarding differing standards for summer camps and schools; it has not changed any existing arrangements.”