Officials: End mask wearing

JOHNSTOWN — Fulton County supervisors voted recently to call on national and state leaders to end mandated mask wearing in schools.

The proposed resolution passed by the Board of Supervisors’ Human Services Committee asks President Joe Biden, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislators to end mask wearing in schools. The full board will vote July 12 on the resolution.

“This would really call on getting back to normal,” said county Administrative Officer Jon Stead. “I think the real focus is in the fall.”

He added, “I think they really need to look at social distancing too.”

Fulton County’s proposed measure notes that over the last 18 months, people nationwide have faced the COVID-19 pandemic, complying with mask wearing, social distancing procedures, vaccinations and other precautions “to the point of exhaustion.”

“While necessary for a period of time, these precautions have run their course with the potential to cause other types of harm and mental anguish, particularly to children, teachers and other staff in the school learning environment,” the proposal said.

Stead said there has “been a lot of confusion” from the state regarding mask wearing in schools. He said Cuomo has shifted the focus to counties for analysis of each local situation. But he noted some school districts’ boundaries encompass multiple counties.

The proposed resolution says mask wearing and extended social distancing measures drastically inhibit the social interaction that is “integral” to the well-being of students and to the learning process within local schools.

Fulton County supervisors want federal and state authorities to re-examine all COVID precautions mandated upon schools and school children in New York state and urge them to take action to end mask wearing in schools. This is in the “overall best interest of our children’s future and the people of New York,” the proposal says.

Gloversville 5th Ward Supervisor Gregory Young asked that the proposed resolution call leaders to “examine,” not “end” mandated mask wearing in schools. It was not changed.

Gloversville 1st Ward Supervisor Marie Born said she could see ending mask wearing for older school children, but not for younger ones. She said younger students tend to take their masks off more and hug each other.

Born said legislators have to be careful with their mandates because younger students sometimes “don’t understand.”

“I have some reservations about this one,” said Stratford Supervisor Heather VanDenburgh, who voted no.

She said she would rather wait for further guidance from health officials on mask wearing. She said she agreed with Young.

“I’m not sure I accept the language of this resolution, as is,” VanDenburgh said.

Broadalbin Supervisor Sheila Perry stated, “Ending the mandate doesn’t take away the option.”

Members of a Facebook group called Quarantine the Quarantine have lobbied county government this year to more get involved in trying to end mask wearing restrictions in schools.

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