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McMahon calls on NYS to develop metric to drop masks in schools

Superintendent Jaime Alicea with Syracuse school students in 2020.
Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News file photo
Superintendent Jaime Alicea with Syracuse school students in 2020.

Onondaga County is asking the state to come up with a metric to determine when kids can stop wearing masks in schools. County Executive Ryan McMahon has sent a letter to state Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett, with hopes of getting an answer soon.

McMahon has been talking about a metric surrounding kids wearing masks in classrooms for weeks now. And with COVID numbers dropping dramatically, he believes the time is now to have something in place, and he has some ideas.

"I think you can look at cases per 100,000. I think you can look at hospitalization and ICU capacity, and certainly asymptomatic testing programs to see if you can catch a potential spike or peak of cases within schools,” McMahon said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul has hinted that the state will come up with some kind of number based on case numbers as well as immunization levels of children. But so far New York hasn’t joined New Jersey and Delaware, states which recently agreed to drop the mandate in schools. During a briefing Monday, Hochul noted that just 34% of kids ages 5-11 have been vaccinated.

But McMahon believes there are negative effects for kids wearing masks in the classroom, developmentally and communication-wise. And with COVID-19 cases dropping precipitously, and a high vaccination rate in the community, it’s time to get back to normal.

"It’s been two years. Two years in a four or five-year-old is half their life,” he said. “It’s time for us, the adults, to really figure out metrics where it’s safe, and there’s an acceptable layer of risk, to get rid of some of this mitigation. Whether we are there today or not, we’ll let the health professionals make that decision, but I think we're close."

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.