Riverhead schools will return to ‘mask optional’ as soon as governor lifts school mandate: Superintendent tells families

Following long-awaited new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control on Friday on when Americans should wear masks to protect against COVID-19, the superintendent of Riverhead School said the district will return to a “mask optional” as soon as the governor lifts the universal mask mandate for K-12 schools in New York.

“My intention is for the district to revert to mask-optional when the governor lifts the mandate,” Riverhead School Superintendent August Tornatore told families in the district in a recorded phone call Friday. “We will continue to seek state guidance regarding COVID-19 protocols when the district returns to mask-optional,” Tornatore said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, in a statement late Friday, said state health officials are evaluating the CDC’s new guidelines and will notify the state of “potential changes” to the school mask mandate resulting from the new guidelines.

Hochul, which earlier this month lifted the mask requirement for indoor public spaces, extended the mask mandate in schools until after the winter break. This would allow health officials to reassess COVID-19 infection levels when students return to school, Hochul said.

The new CDC guidelines are based on key county-level metrics, including COVID hospitalization rates, local hospital capacity, and community immunity levels based on vaccination or prior infection. Using these metrics, the CDC designates individual counties as low, medium, or high risk for COVID-19.

Under the new measures, Suffolk County is currently designated as low risk. (Check county risk levels.)

In low-risk counties, individuals should wear a mask based on personal preference, informed of their personal risk level, CDC guidelines say.

When a county is designated as medium risk, people who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe illness should talk to their health care providers about additional precautions, such as wearing masks or respirators indoors in public. .

In medium-risk counties, those who live or have social contact with someone at high risk for severe illness should consider testing themselves for infection before gathering and wearing a mask when indoors. with them, the CDC said.

In high-risk counties, people should wear a properly fitted mask indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status or individual risk, including in K-12 schools and other community settings, according to new CDC guidelines.

People in high-risk counties who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe illness should wear a mask or respirator that gives them better protection, the CDC said.

Regardless of a county’s risk designation, people with symptoms, testing positive, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask, the CDC said.

According to new CDC guidelines, about 63% of US counties — which are home to more than 70% of Americans — are currently designated low or medium risk.

In New York state, 33 counties, including all counties in the Long Island, New York and Mid-Hudson regions, are currently designated low risk, according to the CDC’s website.

Eighteen New York counties are designated as medium risk: Broome, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Chemung, Cortland, Erie, Essex, Genesee, Jefferson, Lewis, Livingston, Niagara, Onondaga, Orleans, Rensselaer, Schuyler, Steuben and Wyoming,

Eleven NY counties are currently in the high-risk category: Clinton, Franklin, Monroe, Ontario, Oswego, Seneca, St. Lawrence, Tioga, Tompkins, Wayne, and Yates counties.

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