New York Mandate Requires Kids Over 2 to Wear Face Masks at Day Care, Camp

New York lifted its indoor mask mandate for fully vaccinated adults on Wednesday, while Governor Andrew Cuomo also announced that children ages 2 to 11 will be required to wear face coverings at day care and summer camps.

Cuomo and the state Office of Children and Family Services defended the mandate, saying it was in compliance with federal guidelines.

"I understand the science, and I understand the data. And that's what drove the federal government to those guidelines," Cuomo said in a press conference on Thursday.

"I also understand it is difficult on a number of levels. It's difficult for parents with one child. Can you imagine a child care provider trying to put masks on 3- and 4-year-olds and have them keep them on all day long? So I get it. We're working with the child care providers to see if there's any way we can help."

The policy for overnight camps says that groups of children who all test negative for COVID-19 by the third to fifth day of camp can remove their masks while inside their group. If the entire camp reaches 10 days without a positive COVID test and no symptoms, then the whole camp can go without masks, said Jess Michaels, director of communications of the American Camp Association, New York and New Jersey in a guide posted on New York Family.

The mandate additionally says that children and campers over age 2 and staff members who are not fully vaccinated must wear face coverings except when eating, drinking, showering, swimming or sleeping.

Many lawmakers have voiced criticism of the mandate, as toddlers had not been required to wear masks throughout the pandemic until now. As mask mandates are being lifted, New York state Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay said the new policy feels like a step backward, according to Spectrum News NY1.

"It would be almost impossible to be able to keep the mask on them, so it just seems like a silly rule," Barclay said.

Opposition has come from both sides of the aisle, including Democratic Assemblyman John McDonald.

"I had three children. They get their hands near their mouth or nose or eyes all day long, and that mask is not staying on come hell or high water, it's just not," McDonald said, according to Spectrum News NY1.

"So let's be realistic about it and let's help with the day care providers, who are still just trying to get off their knees from what the pandemic has done to them. This is going to put them in a position where they have to be the mask police."

The mandate was put into effect the same day it was issued, and included that unvaccinated staff are still required to wear masks and maintain a social distance of 6 feet from other unvaccinated staff members. The New York Department of Health issued the full guidelines for child care, day camp and overnight camp programs on Wednesday.

The Pfizer vaccine is available for children age 12 and older. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are available to those over 18.

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Cuomo Press Conference
New York lifted its indoor mask mandate for fully vaccinated adults on Wednesday, while Governor Andrew Cuomo also announced that children ages 2 to 11 will be required to wear face coverings at day care and summer camps. Above, Cuomo speaks to the media at a news conference in Manhattan on May 5, 2021, in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images