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Incoming Gov. Kathy Hochul Says She Supports School Mask Mandate; NYC Steams Ahead With In-Person Learning Plan

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Kathy Hochul, the incoming governor of New York, said Thursday getting students back into the classroom full time is a priority and, if up to her, masks will be required.

"My view is that people -- children and everyone in the school environment -- will be wearing masks," Hochul said in an interview. "But also, we need to be talking with the school districts, as well. That hasn't happened in the past as the way I think it should. We need to be finding out what their anxiety is, why there's any objection to this."

Hochul, the current lieutenant governor, spoke publicly Wednesday for the first time since Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation. She will take the helm Aug. 24 as the state's first female governor.

Watch Jessica Moore's report -- 

Cuomo previously said he would leave masks and other decisions up to individual school districts.

"With the end of the state disaster emergency on June 25, 2021, school districts are re-established as the controlling entity for schools. Schools and school districts should develop plans to open in-person in the fall as safely as possible, and I recommend following guidance from the CDC and local health departments," New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement last week.


The state Department of Education on Thursday provided its long-awaited guidance for school reopenings, which largely aligns with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It includes requiring masks for everyone indoors and canceling high-risk sports and extracurricular activities in areas with high COVID transmission unless everyone is vaccinated.

But the state is not requiring schools to have a remote learning option.

De Blasio Doubles Down On Plan To Have In-Person Learning In NYC

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday that roughly 70% of adults in New York City have had at least one shot, including 50,000 people who took advantage of the city's $100 incentive to get vaccinated.

And with kids returning to the classroom as breakthrough cases are on the rise, the mayor is doubling down on his commitment to have all in-person learning citywide, CBS2's Jessica Moore reported.

"Unless they are symptomatic or confirmed positive, they're going to stay in school no matter what," de Blasio said.

The mayor cited extremely high vaccination rates among Department of Education staff and educators, saying there is no long-term remote learning plan in place.

"But now, snow days are replaced by remote learning. We we can turn that on quickly, but, in the end, Plan A is Plan A and the best way to get to Plan A is to get as many people vaccinated as possible.," de Blasio said. "How we deal with a kid who has to be out for a week is something we are working through right now, but we are going to be on fully in-person system."

In New York state, the number of COVID patients in the ICU has more than tripled in a month. Across the city, hospitalizations and case numbers are on the rise compared to last week, but the mayor said the numbers are still well within a manageable range.


While many families support kids returning to school, some still have concerns.

"If the parents are not vaccinated and these little kids are not vaccinated, they could be carriers and bring it home," grandmother Frances Howard told CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas.

"The teachers need to get vaccinated, first of all," mother Latroya McGeachy said.

Thursday, the National Education Association, the largest teachers' union in the country, backed vaccination or testing requirements for educators.

Locally, the United Federation of Teachers, another union, stopped short of supporting a mandate, saying the vaccination rate for school personnel in the city already stands around 60%.

There's no word yet on whether the state's recommendations will impact the city's protocols.

CBS2 reached out to New York City Public Schools. They said they're still reviewing the guidelines.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced last week the state will follow the CDC's guidance and require students, teachers and visitors to mask up indoors. Suffolk County health officials issued a similar recommendation Wednesday.

CBS2's Jessica Moore contributed to this report.

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