Nassau County Exec Bruce Blakeman Defies Hochul’s Mask Mandates for School Kids; Signs 3 Executive Orders - The Jewish Voice
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Thursday, May 19, 2022

Nassau County Exec Bruce Blakeman Defies Hochul’s Mask Mandates for School Kids; Signs 3 Executive Orders

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By: Fern Sidman

As mask mandates for students in New York’s schools continue to generate controversy, it was reported on Thursday that at least one elected official has no intention of having his county implement them.

Defying New York State Governor Kathy Hochul’s mandate that all students wear masks on school premises to help stop the surge of the Omicron variant of the Covid virus, Nassau County executive Bruce Blakeman has announced that he wants to allow school districts to decide if kids must wear masks inside buildings, according to a report in the New York Post.

On Thursday, Blakeman signed a trio of several executive orders on mask mandates.

“This executive order gives the school districts their own individual right to make decisions within the county under our home rule authority that we have as a county,” Blakeman said at a Thursday press conference. “Our county is larger than nine states and we don’t need people in Albany telling us what we should be doing.”

News 12 reported that the first order will give parents and local school boards the option on whether to require school children to wear masks. The second-order gives county workers the option to wear a mask. Workers will not be required to wear a mask indoors or outdoors.

Lastly, Blakeman said that the county will not fine businesses that do not comply with mask mandates, as was reported by News 12.

Blakeman insisted that Hochul was attempting to impose an “autocracy” upon the state and decried the mask mandates prior to his signing of the executive orders, as was reported by the Post.

The Post reported that Blakeman also said: “School boards are comprised of elected officials who make decisions based upon the unique circumstances of each district. They are in the best position to make these decisions, not an autocracy in Albany.”

“We are taking a very aggressive approach of fighting COVID-19, but this aggressive approach must be bound by psychological and economic risks of every decision we make, “ he added.

Blakeman announced the county’s three-prong approach to fighting COVID-19 – including doubling the amount of free test kits distributed across the county, according to the News 12 report. This weekend, the kits will be available at Eisenhower Park and Tobay Beach on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. or until supply runs out. The county is asking residents if they live south of Hempstead Turnpike to use Tobay Beach and to use Eisenhower Park if they live north, as was reported by News 12.

A total of 20,000 test kits will be distributed each day per site. With these kits, the county anticipates to serve over 13,000 cars per day. In addition, the county announced a vaccination pod will be at Nassau Community College on Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. 3 p.m, according to the News 12 report.

In a statement sent to the media, Jay S. Jacobs, the chairman of the Nassau County Democratic party said:

“Nassau voters can now certainly see that elections have consequences. Bruce Blakeman’s refusal to comply with the law mandating that masks be worn in schools gravely endangers children, teachers, and our population’s most vulnerable. This politically motivated directive will make school closures more likely, leaving middle and working class families unable to work or require them to pay for child care. School mask mandates must end, but now is certainly not the time. As reported yesterday, Long Island has the highest number of COVID cases among students for any region in New York. How can any responsible County Executive, under these circumstances, issue the order that Bruce Blakeman has just announced?”

Also firing back at Blakeman on Thursday was Governor Hochul who said that Blakeman’s executive orders would ultimately be ineffective, according to the Post report. Hochul said that “state laws will prevail” and that “children in masks, that is safer for them.”

Hochul added that “I hope I don’t need to say anymore on that topic.”

Also voicing opposition to Blakeman’s executive orders was the New York State Teachers United Teachers union, according to the Post report. In a statement, NYSUT chief Andy Pallotta said, ““Public health experts have been unequivocally clear that masks are an important part of the strategies designed to keep students, educators and our communities safe. And the governor was clear this afternoon that state law prevails in this matter.”

In a statement New York State Education Commissioner Betty Rosa asserted that the order won’t supersede the state directive, as was reported by the Post.

She said: “School officers take an oath to obey all legal requirements. It is the State Education Department’s expectation that school boards will follow all legal requirements, including the face covering regulation.”

The Post reported that Blakeman said: “I think there is an unreasonable focus on these masks, especially the paper mask. The data is not there that they materially provide the kind of protection that people would want. It’s a false sense of security. So what we are doing here in Nassau County is we’re doing meaningful things, we’re doing material things.”

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