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Standoff In Nassau Between County Executive Blakeman And Gov. Hochul Over Masks In Schools Continues

ROCKVILLE CENTRE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- As COVID-19 cases in our region begin to plateau and decline, controversy is rising on Long Island, where demonstrators who want no mask or vaccine mandates have been rallying for choice.

The vaxmobile is on site at colleges and universities. As the spring semester begins, vaccines and boosters are now mandatory.

"Everyone is trying to get back to normal, but it's also really important that we are all safe. COVID is easily spread. I know a lot of people who have died," Molloy College student Georgia Bevolas told CBS2's Jennifer McLogan.


Omicron variant cases are beginning to decline in our region. Dr. James Lentini, the president of Molloy College, touts prevention for the school's low COVID rate.

"We have required the vaccine and the boosters for students, faculty and staff. We think this works, the masking requirement for indoor spaces," Lentini said.

Less than seven miles away, the mood shifted. Demonstrators cheered on new Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, showing support for his opposition to mask mandates.

Blakeman signed a controversial executive order in defiance of the state, allowing Nassau schools to decide.

"Like we've said from the beginning, we need choice, and it's not fair to these children. These children are suffering," Massapequa parent Dana Durso said.

Massapequa was the first district to vote to halt mask enforcement beginning next month. The Plainedge School District followed.

"I don't like the masks, personally, like at all," one student said.

"I don't think there should be any kind of mandate with telling kids what they should be wearing on their face," another added.


If the state extends its Feb. 15 expiration date requiring masks in schools, Gov. Kathy Hochul has said she is weighing options on what to do with districts that do not comply.

That includes perhaps withholding funding, and she took a jab at Blakeman.

"To Nassau County, Mr. County Executive, you are saying yes to that? All right, you put on your mask, you can have all the money you want," Hochul said.

Health experts agree -- masks in school is the way to go.

"I would certainly encourage from a public health standpoint wearing masks, and it will help us get out of the pandemic that much sooner," said Dr. Adhi Sharma, president of Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital.

He said Omicron is airborne and spreads easily in indoor spaces.

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