- As the “tripledemic” of flu, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV, shake up school operations heading into winter, some larger school districts are beginning to recommend — and even require — that students and staff wear face masks again.
- “In an effort to be proactive,” the School District of Philadelphia will require all students and staff to mask indoors for two weeks after classes resume Jan. 4, Tony Watlington said in a letter sent to district families on Tuesday.
- New York City Public Schools Chancellor David Banks strongly encouraged students and staff to wear masks indoors. In a Dec. 12 message to families, Banks said the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recommended universal indoor masking, including in schools and day care centers.
People in counties identified at a high COVID-19 community level by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should especially wear face masks, said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky in a Dec. 5 media briefing.
As of Dec. 15, the CDC reported 11.2% of the population lives in a county with a high COVID-19 community level. That was up 6 percentage points just since Walensky’s recommendation 10 days earlier.
School mask mandates loosened up this year, as only a very small percentage — 1.2% — of the top 500 districts entered the 2022-23 school year with mandates in place, according to data tracking company Burbio.
A statewide ban on school mask mandates in Virginia, meanwhile, has gotten some legal pushback. Virginia state officials this month agreed to settle a lawsuit clarifying that public schools must accommodate a child with a disability who needs their classmates and teachers to wear masks under the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
The settlement follows a federal lawsuit filed by parents of 12 students with disabilities in February. The lawsuit challenged Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order banning mask mandates in schools, claiming the policy violated federal protections for students with disabilities.
Additionally, a November study published in The New England Journal of Medicine evaluated how the February lifting of a statewide school mask requirements in Massachusetts affected the spread of COVID-19 among students and school staff in the greater Boston area.
Researchers found that during the 15 weeks following the mandate’s lift, there was a noticeable increase in cases, to 44.9 per 1,000 students and staff. The study suggested that universal masking is a crucial strategy to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and prevent further loss of in-person learning.