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Some districts are returning to mask mandates due to an increase in COVID cases

Some districts are returning to mask mandates due to an increase in COVID cases

For many school principals, the last two years have been Groundhog Day. Due to the recent return of mandates for masks in some areas that have faced another attack of COVID-19 cases, this feeling will not go away any time soon.

For example, school districts near Boston, Pittsburgh and Portland, Maine, have in recent weeks become headlines for resuming mask mandates as a sharp rise in cases in some parts of the country, pushing communities to “high risk” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . category. The CDC recommends that people wear masks indoors and in public places when they live in the red community.

“It’s horrible,” said John Law, head of Northampton Public Schools in Northampton, Massachusetts, who renewed his mask mandate on May 10. “It has been an incredibly difficult time for our staff, for our families, for all the support of the system being implemented within the district. I sincerely hoped we would never be in this place again.”

In the school district of Northampton on May 4, there were 64 cases among staff and students. By May 6, that number had risen to 139 in the county with about 2,700 students, the abyss said.

The decision to demand masks has become very localized as almost all states have waived mask duties for schools. But counties in some states will not have that opportunity, even if the cases increase.

Five states – Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia – are banning mask mandates. Six other states – Arizona, Arkansas, Tennessee, Iowa, South Carolina and Texas – have tried to ban mask masks, but their attempts have been completely blocked or suspended by federal judges, or failing to fulfill mandates while awaiting court rulings, according to Education Week Mask Mandate Tracker.

Hawaii is the only state with a permanent mandate for school masks that expires after the summer.

An increase in the number of cases for the return of seats

After the mask was optional for the entire March and April, the Portland School District, Maine, returned its mandate for the mask on May 12th. Superintendent Xavier Batana said it was an easy decision after viewing cases of uprisings in the county of 6,500 students from 26 to early April to 143 on May 8.

The increase in the number of cases was combined with the CDC’s decision to move Cumberland County, where Portland is located, from the yellow, “medium risk” area to the red “high risk” classification. Cumberland is one of 137 U.S. high-risk counties CDC for COVID-19 case tracking.

Batana pointed to the CDC’s recommendations on camouflage as the impact of his decision.

Batana and the vice-chancellor in Northampton hope that the requirements for masks will minimize obstacles to learning in their areas. No district has had to close schools in recent weeks, but both principals have been nervous as other school districts have closed their doors.

Brooklyn School in Brooklyn, Maine, switched to distance learning from May 3 to 6 after 30 percent of the school community did not experience symptoms of COVID-19, according to the letter is posted on the school website. In Northampton on May 13, one primary school had 18 employees. Not all of these employees were sick with the virus, but the auditor believes that the increase in the number of cases was due to staff shortages.

“If you take the potential absenteeism of employees that can be created when [the COVID-19] the trend continues, in our opinion, it really threatens the possibility of guaranteeing the continuation of the school’s work, ”he said.

Even with growing cases, most schools across the country remain optional. Kavida Adams, head of the Albany County School District in New York City, said the decision to return to the masks would eventually be made by the leadership of the Albany County Department of Health.

As of Monday, the health department had not given the district such recommendations. Albany County was in the red zone on Friday, and the CDC calls the entire state of New York either medium or high risk.

Although masks are optional, most students and staff wear them, Adams said. Other mitigation measures are in place in the district, such as extensive testing, quarantine and hygiene lessons for students.

Adams said the county of 9,000 students has an average of 13 cases a day.

“Now parents are worried, even our students are worried about the rise in cases,” Adams said. “My message would be that we need to make sure we follow the established COVID protocols that masks are encouraged.”

Preparing for the reverse

Any school principal already knows this. With the change of policy towards COVID-19 comes the opposition.

Both Sprout and Batana heard complaints about the decision to return to the masks. At a meeting of the Northampton School Committee on May 12, few parents spoke out against the mandate, challenging its legitimacy, expressing concerns about justice for hearing-impaired students and asking, “Where is the final game?”

Despite the vocal opposition, Provost and Botana are confident that most of their communities support a return to masks. Both superintendents have developed a strategy of linking data when talking to people who are against their decisions.

In letters sent to school district communities, both leaders cited advice and recommendations from health officials as a reason to return to masks.

“This is the way we have tried to make decisions throughout the pandemic,” Batana said. “There’s nothing here that you wouldn’t expect from us.”

Neither Botana nor Provost want the mask requirements to last long. In both constituencies, the last school day takes place in mid-June, and principals hope the number of cases will allow them to revoke their mandates by the summer.

“It’s another crooked road that was very crooked,” Batana said. “I hope this is the last one. I knock on wood when I say that, because I’ve said it many, many times. “

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