How schools are targeting safety more precisely during the latest COVID wave
School leaders are not rushing to impose districtwide mask mandates or close schools to combat the omicron-driven resurgence of COVID. Instead, when they are reinstating mask requirements and other precautions, they are targeting single schools, grade levels and classrooms.
In fact, more districts continue to lift mandates than impose them.
K-12 vaccine mandates remain even rarer—in fact, they are virtually non-existent. California, the biggest state with plans to require COVID vaccinations for school enrollment, has delayed any new rules until at least July 2023. Because COVID vaccines are not yet fully approved for all students in the 7-12 grade span, officials will need more time to implement a mandate, the California Department of Public Health says.
Fewer and fewer masks
Both of the major districts in Minnesota’s Twin Cities have now lifted their mask mandates for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. Minneapolis Public Schools made masks optional on Monday (April 18) with case rates and hospitalizations having declined significantly from previous peaks. “We know COVID-19 isn’t gone forever, but we are hopeful that our community is entering a lull in the pandemic,” the district said.
Saint Paul Public Schools also lifted its mask mandate on Monday. The district’s school board said face coverings will remain optional when COVID rates are low to moderate in its communities. Administrators still strongly recommend that unvaccinated students and staff, as well as those with high-risk health conditions, continue to wear masks.
Elsewhere in the Midwest, the mask mandate in Milwaukee Public Schools ends on Tuesday (April 19), when students return from spring break. The district will continue to provide access to COVID testing. Administrators in all three of these big Midwestern districts warned families that mask mandates would likely return if cases rates rise sharply.
Masks are again required through at least Friday (April 22) at one North Carolina high school, where last week’s prom appears to have sparked a COVID outbreak and exposed the entire staff and student population. Carrboro High School last week linked 15 cases to the prom and said 15 other individuals appear to have contracted the virus at school.
Administrators at Hixson Middle School, in Missouri’s Webster Groves School District, imposed a two-week mask mandate when new COVID-19 cases exceeded 1.5% of the building population.