State must show leadership and issue guidance for local schools

Natalie DiFabion (from left), Mason Andiorio and Elieana DiSalvo attend their socially distanced English class in December 2020 at Case Middle School in Watertown. Kara Dry/Watertown Daily Times

This editorial appeared in the Post-Star on Aug. 10:

GLENS FALLS — New York’s lack of guidance on COVID-19 for the fall — school starts in a matter of weeks — is almost as unhelpful as Florida’s mandate against protecting students from the disease.

Here is what the CDC says:

“CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place.”

Notice that the CDC says students should return to school. Most people, including federal officials, recognize that remote learning is a poor substitute for in-person learning. So the key is to do it in a safe way.

With the more contagious delta variant circulating now, kids who are under 12 and cannot yet be vaccinated are in more danger than they were before, because they are more likely to get infected.

Scientists say only a small percentage of children will develop serious symptoms. But when many children are getting infected, that can mean the hospitalization of a significant number. A child in Warren County was reported Monday in critical condition from COVID-19.

In Florida, the governor, Ron DeSantis, has forbidden any local school district from requiring masks. Since masks are most effective when both parties are wearing them, his order makes going to school more dangerous in a state that is already the epicenter of the disease. Political posturing is again overwhelming public safety.

We’re guessing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s besiegement has everything to do with the current rudderless state of the state’s government. Giving school districts no reopening guidance is an abdication of responsibility and a formula for disaster.

New York’s statement on schools did reference CDC guidelines, so why didn’t the state go ahead and recommend universal indoor masking? That would have been helpful to local officials who decide to do the right thing and insist on strict COVID safety protocols.

Instead, the state is leaving each superintendent and school board to fend for themselves. It’s not too late for someone (Kathy Hochul?) to speak up for the safety of our kids and our communities. Our students should be in class, and the schools should be as safe as we can make them. Both objectives can be accomplished, but it won’t be as easy as 1 plus 1 without support from the state.

Local editorials are written by the Post-Star editorial board, which includes Ben Rogers, president and director of local sales and marketing; Brian Corcoran, regional finance director and former publisher; Will Doolittle, projects editor; and Bob Condon, local news editor. © 2021 Post-Star.

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