Will local schools require masks this fall?

Will local schools require masks this fall?

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

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Editor’s note: This story was last updated on Tuesday, July 27 at 7:53 p.m.

NCDHHS’ latest COVID guidance says K-8 schools should require masks indoors for all students and staff regardless of vaccination status, and unvaccinated high school students and staff members should wear masks indoors.

Which school districts implement this guidance remains to be seen. Furthermore, consequences for ignoring it are unclear.

Driving the news: Gov. Cooper and NCDHHS secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen shared the guidance during a press conference last week. Their update came as the infectious Delta variant spread through the state and the vaccination rate slowed.

During the press conference, neither Cooper nor Cohen outlined consequences for school districts that don’t require masks for unvaccinated students.

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When asked whether the guidance was required, NCDHHS sent Axios a statement saying in part: “Following the expiration of Executive Order 220 on July 30, 2021, local school leaders are responsible for requiring and implementing strategies in the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit in consultation with their local health departments.”

Why it matters: Kids under 12 still aren’t eligible for a vaccine. These young students, along with anyone else who’s unvaccinated, are still especially vulnerable to COVID-19 and the Delta variant.

  • President Biden said during a town hall that the CDC will “probably” advise children who are under 12 to wear masks in schools, NBC News reported.

By the numbers: The state’s overall vaccination rate is low, and slightly lower for 12-17 year olds.

  •  57% of North Carolina 12-17 year olds are at least partially vaccinated, and 54% are fully vaccinated.
  • 60% of North Carolina adults are least partially vaccinated, and 57% are fully vaccinated.
  • 49% of the state’s overall population is partially vaccinated, and 46% is fully vaccinated.

In Mecklenburg County, 51% of the population is partially vaccinated and 48% is fully vaccinated.

  • Meanwhile, as of July 21, the percentage of positive cases has risen to 8.6%. Daily case counts and hospitalizations are increasing as well.

What’s happening: Charlotte-area school districts vary regarding their mask requirements for the fall, and not all of them have shared their policies yet.

CMS: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will discuss potential changes to the mask policy during a meeting on July 30 at 9 a.m. The district sent Axios as statement saying in part:

  • “Staff will discuss this guidance and other recommendations provided by leading health professionals and organizations as we finalize decisions related to the opening of school for the upcoming year. Should our current practice requiring face coverings indoors for all students and staff change based on these recommendations, we will alert students, families, staff and media.”

UCPS: The Union County Public School board voted earlier this month to make masks optional for students and staff regardless of vaccination status. A district representative told Axios that there were no plans to change the UCPS mask policy following the governor’s announcement.

RSS: The Rowan-Salisbury School board also voted earlier this month to make masks optional for students and staff. A district representative tells us that their mask policy still stands following the state guidance for unvaccinated students and staff.

CCS: The Cabarrus County School board voted to make masks optional for students after the governor’s announcement saying they should be required for certain students.

GCS: The Gaston County School board unanimously voted to make masks optional for students after the governor’s announcement saying they should be required for certain students.

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