When will school mask mandates be lifted, and will it make a dent in school operations like safety agents have?
The answer is a collective shrug.
New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul said that she would make a decision on lifting the school mask mandate on March 7. In the meantime, Hochul said the state has sent out 5 million test kits for students to use over the mid-winter break to prepare for the return to classes.
“Parents know that when their kids come home for that break, they have a test kit, test them, the Monday before they head back to school, make sure they’re negative, test again in a couple of days,” she said to reporter. “And that is,
I’ve mentioned, we’d be having to take a look at that Friday, March 4th, on what the numbers are, looking at all the variables I’ve already outlined, real excited about that.”
Both Hochul and the New York City Health Department officials said they’re checking off a list that needs to be filled if she would consider lifting the mandate. Hochul has said she would review at least six indicators once winter break is over.
In other words, the conversations won’t take place until the end of the month.
The number of COVID cases continues to drop in New York State. Counting the week ending this Sunday, cases dropped by 38% with the state adding 33,811 new ones.
When the AmNews asked officials at the United Federation of Teachers about potential new policies, a spokesperson said, “If Governor Hochul changes state policy, then we’ll have more to say.”
And that’s the key element. Who has anything to say up to this point? One person does.
Eric Feigl-Ding is an epidemiologist and health economist. He’s a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists. He was also a faculty researcher at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Chan School of Public Health. Yet, he’s made his name on Twitter sounding the alarm on COVID-19, its new variants and when places should pull back on re-opening so soon. When asked if the American public was moving too fast to call the pandemic a wrap, he said “definitely too soon.”
Fiegl-Ding then directed the AmNews to comments he made earlier during a Twitter thread where he said, “If we want to learn from history, we can simply look at the 20th century’s most fearsome pandemics for guidance,” he said. “John Barry, the historian of the great influenza of 1918, reminds us that the deadly fourth wave of that catastrophe only occurred in 1920 ‘when millions had already been exposed to the virus, when the lethality of the third was subsiding, most people let down their guard…’”
The AmNews asked a New York State senator who wished to remain anonymous when Hochul would announce her plan for the school mask mandate and was met with a “No clue brother. I think she will, but later.” What’s holding her up?
“Science, I think,” said the senator.
Which, if you’re Feigl-Ding, makes perfect sense. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a new subvariant is on the rise: Omicron 2.0. The BA.2 sub-lineage has tripled in one week, which has dislodged the old Omicron from dominance.
“Expect to be dominant by March,” said Fiegl-Ding on Twitter. “Omicron reinfections are possible.”
The U.K. Health Security Agency is also looking into BA.2 sub-lineage and believes that while cases are low there’s a fear that it might be more easily transmissible.