IREDELL COUNTY, N.C. — The Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education held an emergency meeting Wednesday morning to confirm the district's decision to make face masks optional this academic year.
The board decided masks will be optional for students and faculty. Parents will get to decide if their children wear masks or not this upcoming year. The vote comes one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reversed course on its guidance, recommending masks be worn by everyone indoors where COVID-19 is surging, even if they're fully vaccinated. The vote was unanimous.
Under the policy, there are some situations that would make masks mandatory. One of those times would be if there is a cluster within a school.
"Kudos to the parents who have stood up for their kids," said one parent after the meeting. "I think that at a moment's notice, as soon as a kid sneezes or coughs, they're gonna say, 'COVID, COVID,' and mask all the kids and continue to terrorize and subjugate them."
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said last week that he "strongly recommends" face coverings be required for students in kindergarten through eighth grade and unvaccinated high school students. Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary for the state's Department of Health and Human Services, said the recommendation was because most children are still unable to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Some board members acknowledged that the situation is changing, and it's possible Cooper does something that overrides their optional mask policy. The district superintendent will have decision-making authority, and if situations change, mask mandates and classroom closures are possible.
North Carolina has seen a steady increase in COVID-19 cases as the delta variant spreads quickly in the Charlotte area and nationwide. On Tuesday, the CDC reversed course on some masking guidelines, recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where COVID-19 is surging.
Most new infections in the U.S. continue to be among unvaccinated people. But “breakthrough” infections, which generally cause milder illness, can occur in vaccinated people. When earlier strains of the virus predominated, infected vaccinated people were found to have low levels of virus and were deemed unlikely to spread the virus much, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.
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