(CNS photo by Nicholas Pfosi/Reuters)

(CNS photo by Nicholas Pfosi/Reuters)

Gov. Cuomo announces new masking, vaccine mandates

Although New York recently considered plans to eliminate indoor masking requirements in schools for both students and adults, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced July 28 that all individuals in schools — regardless of vaccination status — should continue to wear masks during the upcoming academic year.

To date, however, the state education department has not released specific instructions or regulations pertaining to reopening schools this fall.

Cuomo’s announcement follows updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which currently recommends universal indoor masking regardless of vaccination status for all teachers, staff, students and visitors in kindergarten through grade 12 schools.

According to the CDC, the revised recommendation arose from new evidence about the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus.

During his July 28 press conference, Cuomo also addressed the rising number of coronavirus cases linked to the Delta variant. The number of COVID-19 cases has been on the rise in New York since June even though nearly 57 percent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated, he said.

Consequently, the governor announced that employees of New York state will now be required either to be vaccinated or tested on a weekly basis. However, this option will not be available to front-line and patient-facing health-care workers in state hospitals, who will be required to be vaccinated as a condition of employment.

The vaccine mandate for state workers will take effect by Labor Day, following the completion of work with various unions on its implementation.

Cuomo also called for the Food and Drug Administration to expedite full approval of the COVID-19 vaccines in order to give the state greater authority in mandating vaccinations to all eligible individuals.

Although their current emergency-use status limits New York’s legal authority in mandating vaccines to state employees, Cuomo noted a memo recently released by the U.S. Department of Justice found that employers are not barred from requiring COVID-19 vaccination for employees, and he urged them to do so to combat the spread of the Delta variant.

Cuomo also said the state would review the CDC’s most recent masking guidelines for the general public before moving forward with any new masking mandates.

In May, the CDC eased its guidance for fully vaccinated people, no longer urging them to wear masks outdoors, including in crowds, or in most indoor settings. However, as of July 27, the CDC updated its guidelines, recommending that in parts of the country where the virus is spreading even vaccinated people wear masks indoors and in outdoor public areas with large crowds.

During a July 27 corona-virus briefing for the Rochester area, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said he was not considering reinstating a mask mandate or requiring vaccinations for Monroe County employees.

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