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Legislators seek end to mask mandate inside schools
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Legislators seek end to mask mandate inside schools

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"Unmask Our Children' rally

Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-Schoharie, speaks at an Unmask Our Children' rally on the Capitol steps in Albany on Wednesday. Tague has sponsored a bill to repeal the mask mandate for students in schools. 

Assembly Republicans on Wednesday urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to drop the mask mandate for students.

“Governor Cuomo. Unmask our kids now!” said Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-Schoharie, during a rally on the steps of the Capitol in Albany.

Tague has introduced a bill that would make it illegal for state agencies to mandate the masking of healthy children under the age of 18, which would allow children to remove their masks in schools, summer camps and other settings.

On Monday, Cuomo said children could remove their masks outdoors, but they would still be required inside. This followed a weekend of confusion after Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker sent a letter to the CDC on Friday, asking if the state could waive the mask requirement.

Tague said he has heard from frustrated parents.

“Children are confused, scared and exhausted. Many of us couldn’t fathom wearing a mask in a room with no air conditioning for hours at a time, and we’re telling them they have to keep wearing their masks — even as adults in their lives are beginning to take theirs off in public,” he said.

COVID-19 positivity rates have fallen. Cuomo on Wednesday announced the daily rate was 0.37% and the seven-day average was 0.48%.

“In the months since the pandemic has started, we have learned that children in schools don’t spread COVID very much at all,” Tague said.

The state’s vaccination rate exceeds the national average, he added.

“Why do we continue to maintain such a burdensome mandate that data shows is entirely unnecessary?” he said.

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Tague wants the bill debated on the floor of the Assembly.

Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay said the governor’s emergency powers must be rescinded.

“We’ve seen one mandate after another come down from this governor that don’t make any sense. They’re not based in any kind of scientific or good public health policy,” he said.

Assemblyman Matt Simpson, R-Horicon, said he believes the requirement should be removed.

“Mask-wearing for children in school and in general can be simplified by letting parents decide what is best for their own child. End mask mandates on children and let them enjoy their summer mask-free,” he said.

Sen. Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, said he has not seen a companion bill in the Senate but supports the idea.

“I share the frustration of many school officials, parents and even students who contacted me, following this weekend’s confusing mask announcements,” he said in a statement. “I think the mandate should be lifted in our schools.”

Wednesday’s cases

  • Warren County reported no new cases. The number of confirmed cases since the pandemic began remains at 3,504. Five more people have recovered for a total of 3,401. Two people are hospitalized, which is one less than Tuesday after one person was discharged. Both people are moderately ill. The county is monitoring 29 active cases — the lowest number since Nov. 18. All but two have mild illness.
  • Washington County reported four new cases, for a total of 2,806 confirmed cases since the pandemic began. Two more people recovered for a total of 2,757. There are 11 people ill, and one person remains hospitalized.
  • Saratoga County reported two new cases, for a total of 15,349 confirmed cases. Eleven people recovered for a total of 15,139 recoveries. The county is monitoring 41 active cases. Seven people are hospitalized — a drop of two from the previous day.
  • Essex County reported no new cases.
  • Saratoga Hospital reported four coronavirus patients in house.
  • Glens Falls Hospital reported five coronavirus patients. None are in the intensive care unit and three are out of isolation.

For Tuesday, the most recent data that is available:

  • The Capital Region reported 12 new cases, a positive test rate of 0.3%, which decreased the weekly average to 0.5%.
  • Warren County had a positive test rate of 0%, which lowered the weekly average to 0.7%.
  • Washington County had a positive test rate of 0.6%, which kept the weekly average at 0.5%.
  • Saratoga County had a positive test rate of 0.3%, which lowered the weekly average to 0.6%.
  • Essex County had a positive test rate of 0%, which kept the weekly average at 0.2%.
  • Statewide, 426 people tested positive for the virus on Tuesday. A total of 777 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 and 11 people died.

Michael Goot covers politics, crime and courts, Warren County, education and business. Reach him at 518-742-3320 or mgoot@poststar.com.

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