ALBANY, N.Y. (WWTI) — During her first day in office on Tuesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul outlined several ways she plans to ensure children safely return to the classroom in September, including plans for a mask mandate and vaccine requirement.

During her first public address, Hochul said she directed the State Department of Health to implement a universal masking policy for anyone entering school buildings. The state is also working toward implementing a program requiring the COVID vaccine or weekly testing for all school personnel across New York.

“I’m ready to get to work as your governor to solve the big problems that this state faces. Your priorities are my priorities, and right now, that means fighting the delta variant,” Gov. Hochul said during her address. “None of us want a rerun of last year’s horrors with COVID-19, therefore we will take proactive steps to prevent that from happening.”

In response to these priorities in New York State schools, New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta issued a statement in support of universal masking, regular COVID-19 testing and vaccine requirements. He stated the following a press release:

“Gov. Kathy Hochul brings a breath of fresh air to Albany, and she already is taking decisive action to bolster health and safety in our schools. We support universal mask wearing as part of a layered mitigation strategy that also includes robust COVID testing, contract tracing, proper ventilation and other strategies recommended by public health experts. We also support the governor’s move to require regular COVID testing for school staff who are not yet vaccinated. It’s critical that educators continue to have a voice in the implementation of vaccine requirements and other COVID policies at the local level.”

NYSUT President Andy Pallotta

In early August, Former Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that his office, or NYDOH was not planning on issuing any guidance for school reopening in September. Governor Hochul outlined her new plans during a virtual address to New Yorkers Tuesday afternoon, hours after she was sworn in to replace Andrew Cuomo following his resignation.