Lawsuits filed by upstate lawmakers and parents aimed at ending the statewide mask mandate for millions of students in New York schools don’t reflect well on a new governor trying to get a handle on a resurgent COVID-19 pandemic.
Sen. George Borello, R-Sunset Bay, whose district includes part of Livingston County, was one of several officials and organizations to file suit in state Supreme Court in Albany County defying the mask mandate for students, teachers and staff in pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade in both public and private schools for the 2021-22 year. Five families with nine children filed a separate lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in New York’s Northern District arguing the regulation violates their rights to free speech and liberties protected by the 1st and 14th Amendments in the U.S. Constitution.
The plaintiffs might have a valid point, but millions of New Yorkers say they have a few rights of their own. One is the right to stay safe, healthy and alive.
Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, announced her plan for a statewide mandate for face masks or coverings for any person age 2 and older who enters a school building for the 2021-22 year before she took office Aug. 24. Hochul also supports mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for New York teachers and school staff — a requirement meeting challenges of its own.
Make no mistake about it: Thousands of parents banded together on social media to organize events to push lawmakers to rescind the mask mandate for students, with about 1,000 rallying outside the Capitol at the end of August when the rule for the 2021-22 year was announced.
But in the meantime, thousands more parents are justifiably concerned about the safety of their children and their own safety while the more contagious delta variant is still on the prowl. We know how relaxation of safety protocols over the last 18 months have repeatedly backfired. We can’t afford to take a chance here. Hochul must respond with credibility and documented facts.