“I am a little relieved that we will not have to mask our 2-year-old children,” said Becky Meagher, director of Expressive Beginnings Child Care in Henrietta.
That is the immediate response from one child care center after the state changed the mandate. The guidance now encourages, instead of requiring, young children to wear masks.
“We were surprised about the new guidance that came out,” Meagher said. “And we were definitely feeling that we had a challenge ahead of us that we would have to face, trying to teach 2-year-old children to mask.
The childcare center said if it had to enforce the mask mandate in the toddler classroom, it would be difficult for the teachers.
“It’s a very busy room,” she said. “They don’t understand masking, they would constantly be wanting to take it off, so just the fact that we can let them be 2 year olds, have fun, enjoy their time at school; there’s other ways we can keep them safe.”
Kenny Nickels of Penfield said he’s not opposed to the mask mandate for younger children considering the severity of the virus, and seeing how masking rules have worked in his working environment. Nickel’s does see the challenge of getting younger ones to wear masks.
“I think the struggle is with any child that’s 2-years-old, it’s going to be difficult for them to keep on a mask,” Nickels said moments before the state revised the mandate. “And as I’m experiencing with almost a 2-year-old as well, the child really doesn’t like to keep their mask on, you know they like to do what they want.”
Expressive Beginnings Child Care in Henrietta says it has a number of cleaning processes in place to make sure children are safe in the facility. Although the state was expanding the mandate to those between 2 and 5, expressive beginnings already had COVID-19 safety protocols in place.
“To keep the children safe in our toddler classroom where they are not masking, we have daily screening checks for all of the children that enter the building,” Meagher said. “We have specific cleaning and sanitizing procedures, our 3 and 4-year-old children do wear masks, and our parents are required to wear masks.”
If you are a parent looking to get your child into masking, Nickels recommends the following:
“Repetition is key, keep trying, don’t give up,” Nickels said. “If you want your kids to wear masks, you will find a way, you know your kids better than anybody else.”
While it’s no longer a mandate, the state is still encouraging mask wearing for children and asking child care staff to get vaccinated.