Schools Need Mask, Protocol Changes

Schools Need Mask,  Protocol Changes

There is major push underway to remove all mask requirements in Maryland public schools in favor of allowing local school boards to make their own decisions based on their own data. It’s easy to support the facial covering change, but it will be counterproductive if it’s not accompanied by loosening close contact tracing rules.

Under current protocols governing schools during the pandemic, students who are not wearing a mask within three feet of a positive person for more than 15 minutes must quarantine. If there is a mask being worn, there is no quarantine time required. The weight placed on masking has always been a problem. Though studies have shown it’s not an absolute, the rule maintains masking prevents the transmission of the virus. It’s why students have worn masks as long as they have, but it should not be the case. Worcester County Public Schools have shown great resolve with its “test to stay” approach minimizing quarantine times.

Though the county school system deserves credit for bobbing and weaving throughout this pandemic, it’s time for these quarantine rules to be changed. The CDC agreed as much this week, saying mask rules and associated vaccination status guidance will be relaxed. Included in this change of direction away from treating it as a pandemic must be school guidance that no longer quarantines groups of students due to proximity to a student later found to be COVID positive. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said this week, “We all share the same goal – to get to a point where COVID-19 is no longer disrupting our daily lives, a time when it won’t be a constant crisis – rather something we can prevent, protect against, and treat.”

We encourage the State Board of Education to remove the off-ramp concepts and allow the local school officials to make their own decisions based on their own knowledge. Removing the mask mandate, however, only works if close contact protocols are calmed as well.

In a letter last Friday to families announcing the shift to mask optional for catholic schools Monday, the Archdiocese of Baltimore said the schools would still require unvaccinated close contact students to quarantine and for vaccinated students impacted to wear a mask for 10 days following exposure. This is counterproductive and not moving forward. Student quarantine numbers will skyrocket when cases increase in the future. Infections from the virus will continue. We just need to manage it better.

If we don’t move away from these quarantine rules, unmasking the kids will result in keeping more kids out of school. This cannot happen.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.