We applaud Gov. Kathy Hochul for mandating facial coverings in schools and we urge those who oppose the practice to do some soul searching.

Schools are spreaders of disease in the best of times. All of us who are parents have become sick with something the kids picked up at school, where hundreds of people interact closely, touching the same surfaces and breathing in the residue of each other’s coughs and sneezes.

Before COVID-19, that meant inconvenience. As people continue to die from the disease ... it means much more.

“As Governor, my priorities are now the priorities of the people of New York — and right now that means fighting the Delta variant,” Hochul said in an official statement. “My number one priority is getting children back to school and protecting the environment so they can learn safely. I am immediately directing the Department of Health to institute universal masking for anyone entering our schools, and we are launching a Back to School COVID-19 testing program to make testing for students and staff widely available and convenient.”

We all want kids back in school. While educators did amazing work with remote learning during the worst of the pandemic, it’s pretty universally agreed that classroom learning is more effective and that kids need the socialization school provides.

Why, then, do some resist even the smallest efforts to reconcile education with health and safety?

Using arguments grounded in emotion rather than science, uninformed parents insist safety precautions are somehow a violation of their rights. Believing decibels are a substitute for reason, they shout their demands.

It’s a shame that kids, who start life with an innate kindness, are being taught by some that working together for the common good, making the smallest of sacrifices, is the wrong thing to do.

Particularly shameful are the politicians who cater to them.

Lee Zeldin, a Republican congressman from Long Island who wants to be governor, has been particularly egregious in his pandering to the anti-facts crowd.

He tweeted: “NO more lockdowns. NO more mask mandates. NO vaccine mandates. NO vaccine passports.”

That’s right. A guy who thinks he should govern our state is opposed to all the things we need to do to keep New Yorkers safe from the disease.

Zeldin, who stated that he has been vaccinated against COVID, is playing a disingenuous game, courting votes from the anti-science fringe while making a different choice for his own health.

Closer to home, Niagara Falls School Superintendent Mark Laurrie told CNHI that there is overall strong parental support for the new mask mandate, noting he believes only about 20% of parents object to the requirement.

“Most of them are relieved that there will be mandated masks because of the fact young kids cannot get vaccinated,” Laurrie said.

Mandates for public safety and the common good are needed. We’re glad our governor can see that, even if some of her opponents cannot.

— Daily Star, Oneonta

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