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Masks could be a thing of the past in some New York daycares

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Jeffrey Martin

Childcare providers in New York are now allowed to set their own mask requirements, opening the door to allow children to shed their masks at day care and childcare centers. Experts at Cornell weigh in on the potential outcomes from this change and are available for interviews.


Maria Fitzpatrick

Director, Cornell Institute for Public Affairs

Maria Fitzpatrick, associate professor of policy analysis and management and the director of the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs, is an expert on family policy. She says the decision to allow children to shed their masks is a difficult one for parents.

Fitzpatrick says: 

“What's important is that decisions are made in conversation – in conversation between the available science and the public, as well as in conversation between parents, providers, and other community members." 

While public school districts in the state must follow the state’s decision and refrain from implementing their own district-level mask mandates, parents can still choose for their children to wear masks and the state has left decisions about mask mandates in daycare settings to providers.  This leaves a complicated decision in the hands of providers and has many parents wondering how to navigate these new environments. 

“Benefits of mask-wearing include protection from COVID-19 and other diseases. But masks impede communication and socioemotional development, particularly for young children and for the most disadvantaged. Allowing daycare providers the choice of whether to enforce mask mandates is an opportunity to allow them to consider the health and developmental needs, vaccination rates, and risk preferences of the families they serve while also considering the risk factors (prevalence, vaccination rates) in their local communities.

Nellie Brown is the director of workplace health and safety programs at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Throughout the pandemic, Brown has led trainings for companies and unions focused on COVID-19 measures and best practices to safely return to the workplace.

Brown says: 

We may still find people still wearing masks whose jobs have them interacting with the public all the time – this may be their personal choice if their workplaces choose not to have such a policy. Some intense disinfection protocols may loosen up. Ventilation increases or HVAC system upgrades will probably continue and professional standards for these will address disease protection and not just comfort. Programs for mental and emotional support will continue to be needed, probably for years, to address the isolation and stress of the pandemic.

“Of course, things could change drastically if a new variant emerges with higher morbidity/mortality coupled with high transmissibility. Immunity from vaccination, prior infection, or both will help a lot to reduce the height of infection peaks, but waves of infection will continue (probably seasonally) for some years until this disease reaches the endemic state. Once endemic, we will still see illness and death, as we do with the seasonal influenza, but the height of the infection waves will probably be much less than the peaks we have seen in the past two years. As one research expressed it, the disease will ‘smolder rather than burn.”

Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews.