Unmask Our Kids | Congressman Lee Zeldin

Unmask Our Kids

June 14, 2021
Press Release

Op-ed by Congressman Lee Zeldin

On June 2nd, I joined local parents and advocates in Hauppauge to demand that Governor Cuomo follow science and common sense and immediately lift New York’s mask mandate on school children. Just two days later, it appeared Governor Andrew Cuomo listened to our pleas when the indoor and outdoor mask mandates were reversed.

However, Governor Cuomo set off an array of chaos and confusion when he reversed his reversal on June 6th and reinstated mask requirements for students both inside and outside. The next day, Cuomo half reversed the prior day’s reversed reversal and lifted the outdoor mask mandate, but kept the indoor mask mandate.

Thanks to remote learning and lockdowns, kids have sacrificed and suffered so much developmentally, emotionally, physically and mentally throughout the pandemic. According to the CDC, the number of mental health-related ER visits by children increased steadily from April-October of last year, and for kids ages 12-17 these types of ER visits rose 31 percent from 2019. In a survey of public school K-12 teachers conducted in February and March 2021, 97 percent of teachers said students suffered at least some loss of learning from school closings and online classrooms. More than half of teachers described the loss of learning as “significant.” Children, more than any other population, are desperate for a return to normalcy.

Hauppauge School District is a great example of schools being able to operate safely with in-person learning throughout the pandemic. Hauppauge offered both fully in-person and remote learning for its students for the 2020-21 school year, and the results were staggering. Less than five percent of the school district’s in-person students contracted COVID-19. Meanwhile, more than 20 percent of the remote learners contracted the virus. Hauppauge is a great example of maintaining high educational standards while keeping students and teachers safe, and the school district is now advocating for a lifting of New York’s statewide mask mandate for students.

In a June 10 letter to Governor Cuomo and Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, Hauppauge Board of Education President David Barshay and Hauppauge Teachers Association President Kevin Giachetti argue that “the decision regarding masks in our schools must be made at the local level, not in Albany.” They conclude that it’s time to “let kids breathe, see each other’s smiles and enjoy being kids again.” I could not have said it better myself.

Additionally, while I am fully vaccinated, I strongly oppose making the COVID vaccine mandatory, vaccine passports, including New York’s Excelsior Pass, and having seating in ballparks and other locations separated between the vaccinated and unvaccinated. These policies set a dangerous precedent relating to individual freedom and privacy. It’s a slippery slope, for example, to require Americans to have to present personal health papers to non-medical professionals just to go about their daily lives.

It’s also imperative that Critical Race Theory (CRT) be eliminated from every school in our state. Many states are taking steps to ban CRT from schools and it’s time for New York to do the same. We must stop this dishonest and divisive curriculum. Our kids are sent to school for a quality education, not for indoctrination and brainwashing.

Bureaucrats at the state level have dropped the ball for far too long and twisted themselves in knots trying to maintain credibility. It is long overdue that we put our children’s wellbeing back in the hands of their parents and the people who know them best.

Teachers were among the first to be vaccinated, kids are low-risk for contracting and spreading COVID-19, and the weather is getting hotter and many classrooms don't have air conditioning. New York State has no business forcing kids to sit in the heat all day long wearing masks. It’s time for Governor Cuomo to, once and for all, follow the science and common sense. Unmask our kids today, and give them the return to normal they deserve!

Congressman Lee Zeldin represents New York’s First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.