Blakeman signs order giving parents, local school boards option to require kids to wear masks
County Executive Bruce Blakeman announced the signing of several executive orders on mask mandates in the county Thursday morning.
Blakeman announced the first order will give parents and local school boards the option on whether to require school children to wear masks. He emphasized the county will not be enforcing the state mandate by Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Old Brookville resident Katherine Gugliucci says she is home-schooling her child because their school requires masks.
"If you feel comfortable and you feel strong and don't want to wear one, you should not have to wear one," Gugliucci says. "Mandating it is so un-American."
Blakeman also signed an order giving county workers the option to wear a mask. Workers will not be required to wear a mask indoors or outdoors.
Lastly, Blakeman says the county will not fine businesses that do not comply with mask mandates.
“We are taking a very aggressive approach of fighting COVID-19, but this aggressive approach must be bound by psychological and economic risks of every decision we make,” says Blakeman.
Nassau Health Commissioner Dr. Larry Eisenstein agreed with Blakeman's decision that wearing a mask is a "personal decision based on the information."
In response to Blakeman's executive orders, Hochul said, "We have a number of laws in place. People who have more experience in county government would know that state government, state laws prevail. There's also the issue of the State Education Department, which has direct control over funding of schools, I hope I don't need to say any more on that topic."
Blakeman, meanwhile, announced the county’s three-prong approach to fighting COVID-19 – including doubling the amount of free test kits distributed across the county. This weekend, the kits will be available at Eisenhower Park and Tobay Beach on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. or until supply runs out. The county is asking residents if they live south of Hempstead Turnpike to use Tobay Beach and to use Eisenhower Park if they live north.
A total of 20,000 test kits will be distributed each day per site. With these kits, the county anticipates to serve over 13,000 cars per day.
In addition, the county announced a vaccination pod will be at Nassau Community College on Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. 3 p.m.
Lastly, Blakeman says KN95 masks will be given to teachers to help fight the pandemic.
STATEMENT FROM COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION BETTY A. ROSA ON NASSAU COUNTY EXECUTIVE ORDER
Under the authority of Public Health Law 206, the COVID-19 face-coverings regulation (10 NYCRR 2.60), and the Commissioner of Health’s determinations dated August 26 and December 10, 2021, counties are required to enforce school masking regulations. The regulation, which applies to schools and many other sectors, requires local health departments to enforce school mask mandates (10 NYCRR 2.60 [f] [ii]). The Commissioner of Health can additionally direct the local health department to enforce the regulation under the Public Health Law.
Counties do not have the legal authority to require boards of education to vote on specific issues. School officers take an oath to obey all legal requirements. The State Education Department expects school boards will follow all legal requirements, including the face-covering regulation.