Miami-Dade County Public Schools issued a mask mandate for students on buses but have still yet to decide on whether facial coverings will be required indoors in light of the revised recommendations from the CDC and the rise of COVID-19 cases in the county.
In a statement from the district Thursday, MDCPS released its anticipated COVID-19 protocols for the upcoming school year, including social distancing in cafeterias, health screenings and heightened cleaning and sanitization.
As far as facial coverings in classrooms — a mandate that Broward County Public Schools voted on unanimously Wednesday — Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said the district won't rush to make a decision and will use Miami-Dade's later start date as an advantage.
“Time is still on our side,” Carvalho said. “We believe it is reasonable to expect no later than two weeks prior to the start of the school year for us to make that announcement, at the latest.”
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Just two months ago, the district announced masks would be optional.
“We are in a different position today, where the critical elements unfortunately have trended in the wrong direction,” Carvalho said.
Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that fully vaccinated people begin wearing masks indoors again in places with high virus transmission rates. The agency is also recommending kids wear masks in schools this fall.
In the U.S., only 30% of 12- to 17-year-olds are fully vaccinated, and younger kids won't likely get the shots until well into the school year. The American Academy of Pediatrics and other top doctors worry that the Delta variant could rip through U.S. schools when kids return to the classroom this fall.
The high COVID-19 positivity rates in children is why Broward County school officials voted to make masks mandatory.
“We have data that masks gives us something that minimize the likelihood of us transmitting the virus. It is the most protection that we have at this time outside of being vaccinated,” said board member Dr. Rosalind Osgood.
Low vaccination rates were also a part of the reason for the decision, school board members said in the meeting.
“Approximately 21% of Broward County children ages 12-19 are vaccinated. I was honestly shocked to hear this number because i thought the vaccination rate would be a lot higher.”
Though Broward school board members said they would revisit this issue in the fall if vaccination rates go up and COVID cases go down.