Rising COVID vaccinations spark school mask mandate debate

(NBC) In the one-time COVID “epicenter” of South Florida, infections are falling but some parents with young kids don’t see that as a cause to start relaxing mask rules just yet.

“One of the main reasons why it went down is probably because everybody has been wearing masks,” a local resident said.

And now, there are new concerns another wave of the virus is coming as we head into winter.

15 states have seen a double-digit increase in the last two weeks, including some where vaccination rates are above average.

Cold-weather states—like Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois—are showing sizable upticks. But some warm-weather states, like Arizona and New Mexico, have seen an increase in cases too.

Then, there’s California with its Central Valley still coping with busy COVID wards.

“It really tells us that we may actually be at the tip of this winter surge that’s going to hit the rest of the state and possibly the rest of the nation,” said Dr. Rais Vohra, an emergency physician at Community Regional Medical Center.

Some parts of the country are already feeling a surge. Like Colorado, where the governor signed an executive order overnight declaring everyone at high risk for exposure and making anyone 18 and older eligible for a booster.

While hospitalizations nationwide are down about 7% and deaths dropping around 9%, breakthrough cases are increasingly common, with only one-third of eligible seniors so far getting critical booster shots.

Dr. Taison Bell is an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Virginia. He said, “Breakthrough infections are something that we always want to keep track of because that is going to be the first indicator of what may be to come.”

An encouraging 7-in-10 adults are now fully vaccinated, with fresh optimism that kids will help cut down transmission. A million have already received a shot.

This week, two of the biggest school districts in the country — Miami-Dade and Broward — are ending months of acrimony, giving parents the choice about masking their kids.

The Urbom family is now rushing to get their kids vaccinated before sending them back to classrooms with unmasked students.

Miami-Dade student Alanea Urbom said, “If they’re not vaccinated and they’re not wearing masks, I might feel a little uncomfortable around them. And, like, maybe ask them to wear their masks.”

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