Numerous states consider dropping mask mandates in schools

WASHINGTON, D.C. (NBC) – As COVID cases in the U.S. continue to drop, several states including California and Oregon announced they will soon lift mask mandates for the general public. But the country remains divided, especially over schools.

Monday, in what’s being described as a “huge step back to normalcy,” New Jersey, Connecticut, and Delaware all announced plans to lift school mask mandates.

Just outside Cleveland, Troy Intermediate School no longer requires masks in class, it only recommends them.

Avon Lake City Schools Superintendent Bob Scott was asked how effective has mask-wearing been. He replied, “I think it’s been very, very effective.” Of its 550 students, 83 have tested positive this school year. Staffing issues also forced the school to close in December during the omicron surge when masks were optional. “We’re at the point where we feel like we’ve got to learn how to live with this,” Scott said.

Just 35 miles away, Warrensville Heights Elementary has kept its mask mandate. Of its 890 students, 31 have tested positive this school year. It has not closed due to an outbreak.

Warrensville Heights Superintendent David Jolly said, “Our community believes that wearing masks is a barrier to try to prevent the spread.”

Both districts said they’ll rely on public health officials for any future changes to their mask policy.

Nationwide, more than 60% of the 500 largest school districts still require masks, though data on how effective they are in preventing outbreaks in schools is limited.

One survey, conducted by the CDC, said of 169 schools in Georgia, those with a mask requirement had 21% fewer COVID cases than schools where masks were optional.

Another study in Arizona found schools were three-and-a-half times more likely to experience a COVID outbreak if they did not have a mask requirement. But the methodology of those studies has been questioned.

There’s also a lack of data on the downsides of wearing masks in schools. Some parents argue it should be their choice. But for others, the pros outweigh any cons.

Even now, just 22% of 5 to 11-year-olds are vaccinated

The White House said today that universal masking in schools is still recommended, but it’s up to each individual school district.

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