Dan Clark New York Now

Schools in New York are busy finalizing plans to partially reopen, and many colleges and universities have already begun classes. But those who work at the schools, including teachers and professors, say guidelines for when to wear masks need to be more comprehensive to help prevent spread of the coronavirus.  

The state’s largest teachers union, New York State United Teachers, wrote a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, asking him to revise the policy on masks in schools to make them mandatory while in the classroom. 

Two weeks ago, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp sued the city of Atlanta to prevent it from enforcing a mask-wearing requirement. This comes as an increasing number of cities and states are mandating people wear face coverings in public. Stores and businesses across the country have such requirements, but how many are effectively enforcing those policies? When should masks be required indoors and outdoors? Who is eligible for an exemption?

Our guests this hour discuss mask etiquette: 

  • Dr. Marielena Velez de Brown, M.D., Monroe County Deputy Commissioner of Public Health
  • Dr. Mical Raz, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and professor of history and health policy at the University of Rochester
  • Molly Hartley, co-owner of Scratch Bakeshop

Brett Dahlberg / WXXI News

When the Monroe County public health department issued a public notice earlier this week that people were potentially exposed to the novel coronavirus at a tavern in Rochester, the department said the announcement was not intended as a punishment.

Despite New York state’s reopening rules that require face coverings for customers and employees and distance between diners, the county health department said contact tracing revealed that “face coverings were not widely worn and there was little social distancing” at the tavern.

Brett Dahlberg / WXXI News

Administrators at the University of Rochester Medical Center and Rochester Regional Health have instructed staff to reuse masks in an effort to preserve their supply.

At both hospital systems, administrators said they were following state and federal guidance on infection control measures.

Neither hospital system said a shortage of personal protective equipment was imminent. Still, the supplies are finite, said Dr. Michael Apostolakos, the chief medical officer at Strong Memorial Hospital.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Seven people died from COVID-19 in Monroe County since Sunday, bringing the county's death toll to 26, according to data from the county public health department.

The number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 treatment fell to 83 from a high of 86 on Sunday, while the number of people being treated in an intensive care unit held steady at 30.

Dr. Michael Mendoza, the county's public health commissioner, has said those figures are a better reflection of the burden on the local health care sytem than the total number of positive tests for the novel coronavirus.

Max Schulte / WXXI News

Even as the numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths from COVID-19 tick upward in Monroe County, the county’s public health commissioner said Friday that he does not expect the peak of the epidemic to hit locally until next month.

The best estimates, Dr. Michael Mendoza said in an interview with WXXI News, put the peak in mid-May.

Max Schulte / WXXI News

As the need for protective gear like masks and gloves increases with the spread of COVID-19, local hospitals have said their supply chain has remained intact.

For some people outside of hospitals, though, it’s been increasingly difficult to get access to that equipment.