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Republicans debate on canceling mask mandate in schools

Students wearing masks walk into school.
Central Square School District
Students wearing masks walk into school.

Members of the state Senate GOP conference presented an amendment today to force a vote on ending the mask mandate in schools. Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state health commissioner want to keep the requirement in place until at least March 4th. GOP minority leader Rob Ortt disagreed and said it is unjustified and hypocritical.

They’re going to football games, sporting events, and parties—no masks. They see their adult counterparts, their moms and dads—no masks. They go to the mall—no masks. But as soon as they walk into school, they have to mask up. I can tell you, they’re smart enough to tell that this doesn’t add up.

Ortt and his conference called on the governor to provide specific off-ramp metrics for masks in schools. He also wanted Senate Democrats to share where they stand on providing a check and balance on the governor’s unilateral action. Sen. Mike Martucci said they want to put education and health care back in the hands of parents.

It’s time today that the governor stops substituting her judgment for the judgment of parents across the state. There might be parents who choose to mask their children—that’s their choice. We’re not stopping anyone or prohibiting anyone from continuing to use masks if they choose, or if their situation warrants it. But what’s long overdue is making sure our kids finally have the opportunity to unmask.

Senators also said masks are called are “needlessly suffering” and "child abuse." Hochul said she will revisit the school mask mandate in early March when they have enough testing data after children return from winter break.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at