Mask mandate for Palm Beach County school staff, visitors ends Monday
- No mask mandate for teachers, vendors, visitors
- Students were not required to wear masks
- The number of COVID cases is down
A month-long mask mandate for Palm Beach County school employees, vendors and visitors will end Monday, district officials announced in a memo to parents and staff Friday evening.
Superintendent Mike Burke imposed the requirement when school resumed the first week of January in response to a post-holiday spike in COVID-19 driven by the omicron variant.
But the superintendent vowed the requirement was only a temporary measure that would be lifted when conditions improve. After extending the mandate twice by a week at a time on Friday, Burke, in consultation with local health officials, concluded that the time was right.
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“Positivity rates have steadily declined over the past few weeks, now falling to just below 20%. While this is still considered a high transmission rate, it is significantly lower than what we faced when we returned from winter holidays and cases are moving in the right direction,” Friday’s memo to parents and staff said.
“The highly transmissible Omicron variant was also found to be less severe than the previous Delta variant. Based on this information, Superintendent Burke made the decision to revert to optional, but strongly encouraged, face covering status for these groups. “, the note mentioned.
Other data seems to confirm that the omicron wave has peaked, with new cases falling last week to a daily average of 1,050, from 4,165 the week of December 31 to January 1 when the mandate was enacted.
The number of reported cases of confirmed sick students is also falling this week, sitting somewhere above 600 after peaking two weeks ago at 1,195. More than 9,800 students have tested positive for COVID since the start. from school on August 10. More than 1,900 school employees also contracted the disease during this time.
Teachers’ union president Justin Katz hailed the end of what he called a senseless policy that required adults in the classroom to wear masks when students weren’t required to.
“As we’ve always said, if it’s not universal, it doesn’t make scientific sense to us,” he said.
The disparity was created when state law was signed into law in the fall banning mask mandates for students.
With the mandate lifted, Katz said he doesn’t foresee a drastic change.
“I think most teachers, like most students, will choose to continue wearing them. But I think they appreciate the flexibility. It helps show people your face,” Katz said.