New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul doesn’t officially become governor until next week. Still, she’s already catching criticism from Republicans after she voiced her support for a statewide mask mandate in schools.
The Buffalo Democrat spoke to reporters after touring a school in Queens and said she doesn’t have the authority just yet to make that call.
She will get that authority on Tuesday after current Gov. Andrew Cuomo officially resigns and she becomes the state’s 57th – and first female – governor. And her comments gave every indication it was more a matter of when and not if it’ll be enacted.
“Mask mandates are something that the Department of Health has the authority to call for,” she said. “They have that authority now, and we’ll know whether that’s been called for, but I believe we’ll need mask mandates for children to go back to school.”
While children under 12 years of age are ineligible to get vaccinated, they can still contract the virus. That has led to calls to protect those kids through mask mandates, even for people who are fully vaccinated, as federal health officials have reported those individuals can still catch and pass along the virus.
Nationally, mask mandates have created a storm of controversy, with public forums and meetings featuring conflicting calls for promoting public health and protecting personal liberty. States have reported thousands of kids catching COVID-19 or being forced to quarantine after coming into contact with an infected student, teacher or staff member.
Governors nationally have reacted in wildly different fashions and have been the targets of criticism for their actions.
On July 30, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an order that withheld public funds to any school district mandating masks, which led to some districts openly defying the Republican’s directive.
Last week in Kentucky, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear issued an emergency order that required masks to be worn in all public gathering areas at schools and day cares. That order was met with a challenge in the state Supreme Court by the Republican Attorney General.
Likewise, Hochul’s comments have generated criticism from a Republican she will likely face in next year’s gubernatorial election.
“No generation has suffered more during the pandemic than our youngest,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, the favored Republican gubernatorial candidate, on Thursday. “Follow common sense, look at the data across the U.S. where there haven’t been these mandates on children & #UnMaskOurKids!”