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Following Gov. Kathy Hochul’s announcement on Sunday related to mask requirements in New York state schools, as of Wednesday, March 2, students and school staff will not be required to wear masks in school settings. This shift comes from new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which categorizes all U.S. counties with a “community COVID-19 level.” Erie County is currently at “medium” based on COVID-19 hospitalization measures.
In counties at a “medium” level, the following steps are recommended for individuals:
•If you are immunocompromised or high risk for severe disease:
√ Talk to your health care provider about whether you need to wear a mask and take other precautions (e.g., testing)
√ Have a plan for rapid testing if needed (e.g., having home tests or access to testing)
√ Talk to your health care provider about whether you are a candidate for treatments like oral antivirals, PrEP, and monoclonal antibodies
•If you have household or social contact with someone at high risk for severe disease:
√ Consider self-testing to detect infection before contact
√ Consider wearing a mask when indoors with them
•Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters
•Maintain improved ventilation throughout indoor spaces when possible
•Follow CDC recommendations for isolation and quarantine, including getting tested if you are exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19
The ECDOH has adapted a document from the “Finger Lakes Reopening Schools Safely Workgroup and Common Ground Health”: “School Masking Facts, What public health experts in Erie County want you to know.” It will be updated regularly with recent COVID-19 vaccination rates.
The department said, “We encourage you to share this document with your staff and families. ECDOH does not have plans to require masks in school settings, though as a public health measure, masks are a preventive tool that reduce the risk of infection from COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses. Individuals who wish to continue wearing a mask in school or extracurricular settings should not be discouraged from doing so.”
ECDOH is providing a supply of KN94 masks in adult and pediatric sizes for schools, and communications will be sent out separately on that topic.
Graphic courtesy of the Erie County Department of Health