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Protestors rally against school mask mandates in Binghamton

BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — Dozens of protestors rallied outside of Binghamton’s state office building on Friday, calling for an end to school mask mandates. They argued masks have caused students social and emotional problems.

This week, New York state lifted the mask mandate for businesses and restaurants. The protestors said they should end the mandate in schools as well.

“New York state mask mandate being lifted for everybody but school children is something which I find to be highly objectionable,” Tioga resident and right-wing activist Rocco Lucente said.

The CDC has continued to recommend masking when indoors in areas of high transmission.

Lucente said he believed Governor Kathy Hochul would likely end the school mask mandate by the end of February break, but added that the state should lift the mandate now.

Chenango County resident Hannah Storman said she feels the choice to wear a mask should be a personal one. She said her 13-year-old son struggled with wearing a mask at school, and that it affected him physically and emotionally.

“We felt like it had to change, there had to be something done about it. So we decided that he would refuse, he would refuse to wear them, and we would kind of take whatever consequences came," Storman said. "We knew it very likely meant we would homeschool."

Many of the other protestors called for County Executive Jason Garnar to lift school mask mandates. Garnar said he has no control over the statewide mask policy. He addressed the protest today during his weekly COVID-19 update.

As a parent, Garnar said he could understand both sides of the argument. His children, however, got COVID and he saw firsthand how bad the virus can be.

"There were several times during the times that our kids had COVID, a couple of them that were concerning and scary, based on how sick they got," Garnar said. "It's not something I would wish on anybody."

Garnar said it would be helpful for the state to set some benchmarks for when they’re going to lift the mask mandate for schools. He said basing the decision on data, such as vaccination rates or case numbers, might help with any confusion.