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Toddler mask mandate remains for federally funded NYC programs

Making sense of school mask mandates is enough to make one manic.

Mayor Eric Adams lifted the mask requirement for New York City’s youngest learners this week — but some federally funded programs were given a different set of instructions just one day after his announcement.

An internal city memo obtained by The Post states that: “The face cover requirement for Head Start programs is still in effect for all individuals two-years of age and older.”

A mom of three, including two enrolled in daycare, who visited Medgar Evers Head Start in Brooklyn to consider enrolling her children, was irked by the stagnating mandate.

“I am very frustrated and annoyed that my children must still wear masks throughout the day while at school,” she said.

“They are toddlers and have a very hard time keeping their masks on,” the mom added. “It makes no sense because adults and children in public schools don’t have to wear it.”

Mayor Adams lifted the mask requirement for New York City’s toddlers this week.
Matthew McDermott for NY Post

There are 48 Head Start grant recipients in New York City that deliver programs through centers, family child care or home visits, according to the federal Administration for Children and Families.

Some of the grant recipients are small and only run a few sites, while others are bigger and carry out many programs, officials said. A Post analysis of federal data showed more than 200 sites in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island. Data was unavailable for Queens.

Some have opted to follow the city guidance for all New York City daycares and preschools, while others have decided to stick with the mask mandate as instructed.

“They’re sneezing all the time, we’re teaching them cover your mouths, but the children are children,” said a Head Start program director in Harlem, who was not authorized to speak to the press. “The children, three or four years, they’re not able to protect themselves.”

“We have to be there as a mature professional to prevent from the disease. We have to be cautious, we still have to wear the mask,” she added.

Another Head Start worker in the Bronx said the site made masks optional with Adams’ announcement, but that most people are still opting to wear the face coverings.

As of mid-June, the mask guidelines were still in flux.
As of mid-June, the mask guidelines were still in flux.
Gregory P. Mango for NY Post

The Office of Head Start notified programs in February that officials would not evaluate compliance with the mask requirement during monitoring visits until further guidance is provided.

As of mid-June, the guidelines were still in flux. The federal agency did not respond to a request for a timeline to issue updated guidance.

“HHS’ Administration for Children and Families is reviewing the current CDC guidance regarding mask use and will issue updated guidance for Head Start programs,” said a spokesperson for the agency, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“Wearing a mask for children 2 and older continues to be a key strategy to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Head Start programs,” read the statement.

Parents were likewise split on what to make of the lack of uniform guidelines and practices.

Cherice Miller from Crown Heights thought the city should have kept the toddler mask mandate in place.

“It’s safety first,” she said. “I don’t care about these masks and people complaining about it.”

Miller, whose four-year-old granddaughter Kali attends Community Parents Head Start in Stuyvesant Heights, said she will continue masking, even as requirements change.

“They can lift it all they want. I’m not changing until no one gets sick.”

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