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To mask or not to mask

Daily Point

Masking confusion

Some activists and parents on Long Island are loudly decrying what they see as the state’s foot-dragging on dropping school masking requirements. But behind the scenes, many school officials said they would not, and quite likely could not, drop their masking rules even if the state quickly got the changes straight.

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Last week, the state appeared to give guidance saying New York would stop requiring masking in schools on Monday, though it would still “strongly encourage” them for unvaccinated students.

But over the weekend, thanks to confusion over guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control, schools were informed the changes would not come so quickly. Some districts are champing at the bit to drop the requirement, and in those communities anger is growing over the delay.

Then Monday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the masking requirement would stay in effect indoors in schools because the federal Centers for Disease Control would not loosen that rule for at least a few weeks.

With just a couple of weeks to go in the school year, some officials say plans in place that were vetted by district stakeholder groups in accordance with state guidance could not be changed without going through that whole process again anyway – an impossibility in the time left.

“Nothing has changed since last year,” Nassau BOCES Superintendent Robert Dillon told The Point. “The districts are operating under the plans they had to vet with parents, faculty and staff before they reopened to in-person learning, and they cannot change those plans without going back to those groups.”

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And, Dillon said, even in the districts where there seems to be a loud consensus for eliminating mask requirements, “how do you know how the quiet parents and students feel about it?”

The mask issue has become part of the new ready-made activism on the Island. Groups that originally formed to support Donald Trump and conservative views like “Loud Majority Long Island” jumped in to organize protests.

That group, along with several other anti-mask organizations, was rallying at the News 12 Building in Woodbury Monday evening to keep battling the requirement.

In at least three three districts – Sachem, Patchogue-Medford and Massapequa – superintendents said they were dropping the rules. Commack and Connetquot wanted the mandate over, too. Now, after Cuomo spoke, what comes next is unclear.

But frustration with masking may be spreading.

“I’m not getting 30-40 emails demanding we drop the requirement, like some other districts,” Jericho Superintendent Hank Grishman said, “but we have started seeing some.”

But Grishman also says he could not have made a change regardless, because the plan had to have the backing of teachers, other staff and parents, and any change would too, and that process could never be completed before school let out.

In Malverne, Superintendent Lorna Lewis told The Point, “We have nine days left and we’re going to finish strong. I’ve checked with teachers and parents and they just want to go on safely to the end and do what we are doing. I see how politically charged this has become, but we certainly could not make a change without redoing the plan we have on file with the state.”

As for next year, Long Island Board of Regents representative Roger Tilles said, “I had a meeting last week with superintendents who are still worried that we won’t have this straight in the fall, that kids will still have to wear masks because of state and CDC guidance. Fixing that is the real issue, not getting crazy over the next two weeks.”

— Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

Goroff backs Hahn for Congress

Nancy Goroff is endorsing Kara Hahn in the Democratic primary for CD1, Goroff tells The Point.

“She’s awesome,” the 2020 Democratic standard-bearer for the district said, calling the Suffolk lawmaker”a friend and a mentor.”

Goroff cited Hahn’s work on environmental issues and getting Narcan into first responders’ cars to reverse opioid overdoses, and said she is contributing to Hahn’s campaign and will encourage others to get behind Hahn as well.

The show of support comes after Hahn boasted in a news release about raising $100,000 within 72 hours of launching her bid for Rep. Lee Zeldin’s seat. Actual searchable filings aren’t due to the Federal Election Commission for a few weeks, but money will be key. The district has long been one that demands millions of dollars to be competitive.

Given Zeldin’s likely absence as he runs for governor, there are multiple candidates and newcomers getting in the race early, including a self-described progressive and a former writer for the satirical outfit The Onion. Then there’s Bridget Fleming, Hahn’s colleague in the Suffolk County Legislature, who lost to Goroff in the CD1 primary last time around and launched another bid in May. Fleming and Hahn will likely compete for similar endorsers, and Fleming already has the personal support of multiple town party chairs and county party leader Rich Schaffer, and an endorsement from John Durso’s Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW.

The divvying up of political support is sure to continue in the CD1 field, though now we know that field won’t include Goroff herself, who had eyed a run.

Goroff told The Point she is “still hoping to get a position where I can advocate for science in policy either as part of the federal government or a nonprofit.”

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point


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Quick Points

Oh, those analogies

  • The federal judge who overturned California’s longtime ban on assault weapons called it a “failed experiment” and described the AR-15 as akin to a Swiss Army Knife. Perhaps the judge thinks a successful experiment would be to let the Boy Scouts carry AR-15s.
  • The New England Journal of Medicine said the International Olympic Committee’s decision to hold the Summer Games as scheduled in Tokyo, which is under a COVID-19 state of emergency, was “not informed by the best scientific evidence.” But it was informed by the best broadcast rights contracts; a cancellation would cost the IOC as much as $4 billion.
  • The U.S. added 559,000 jobs in May, which was viewed as disappointing because it fell short of some analysts’ expectations. But who said the analysts’ expectations were reasonable?
  • South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham says the U.S. should “go on offense” to make Russia pay the price of recent cyber attacks. Every so often, Graham still says something that makes sense.
  • Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said President Joe Biden’s goal of having 70% of Americans vaccinated by July 4 is “arbitrary, to say the least.” Which leads to a chicken-and-egg question: Which came first, Reeves’ attitude or Mississippi’s abominable 30% full vaccination rate?
  • Graham also says if President Joe Biden can’t pull off an infrastructure bill “he’s not trying,” because, Graham argues, he and many others in the GOP would do a bill of about $1 trillion. Naturally, Graham left out the part about funding, where Republicans are not inclined to be agreeable. So who is it who’s not trying?
  • Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said President Joe Biden is the Michael Jordan of politics because he can lull you into a “false sense of victory” and then “grab the victory at the very last minute.” Biden’s GOP foes probably liked the analogy because Jordan is past his prime and retired.

— Michael Dobie @mwdobie

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