The mandatory mask mandate in Miami-Dade County Public Schools is over.
The district is relaxing mask mandates for all students, citing low rates of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in the community.
Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced the change at a news conference Tuesday.
Carvalho said starting Wednesday, parents will be able to access the parent opt-out form for any student, regardless of grade. He said those students can stop wearing masks to school by Friday.
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Last week, the district had relaxed the mask mandate for middle and high schools. Now all elementary and K-8 schools are included, Carvalho said.
About 9,000 middle and high schooler students have used the opt-out since it was made available last week, Carvalho said.
Carvalho said the new masking rule is being implemented because the county is meeting six COVID-19 criteria, including cases in the community being below 100 per every 100,000 residents and COVID-19 hospitalizations being low for adults and children.
"We vetted this data very carefully and we consulted once again with our medical experts, having obtained overwhelming consensus about today's announcement," Carvalho said.
Carvalho said relying on science and experts, defying the state and making masks mandatory instead of optional, was the right policy and helped create the low infection rates in Miami-Dade Schools.
“We’ve been guided by the right principles and the right principles led us to the right policy, the right policy has led us to ideal conditions under which we can relax these protocols,” Carvalho said.
Among the thresholds the district wanted to reach was 60% of eligible students being vaccinated. Carvalho said about 63% of eligible students are fully vaccinated, while around 83% have received at least one dose.
He also urged parents to get their children vaccinated for COVID-19, saying it’s not political, it’s a matter of public health no different from all the other vaccines kids routinely receive.
Carvalho said the average numbers of COVID-19 cases in Miami-Dade Public Schools has also dropped, to an average of less than 20 over the past five weeks.
“I think as long as the cases are very low then it’s a nice idea not to have to wear the mask,” said Islay Vidal, a parent who has two kids in Miami-Dade Schools.
Vanessa Rosario teaches first grade at iPrep Academy. Right now, every child in her class wears a mask. She knows that could change now that the policy has changed.
“I’m not concerned with the rate of transmission right now, being in the class with my students, I think I will be opting to continue wearing my mask indoors,” Rosario said.
Last Friday, there were 14 cases district-wide out of a total of around 330,000 students and about 48,000 employees, Carvalho said. Around 75% of Miami-Dade schools had zero cases last week, Carvalho said.
The next priority, Carvalho said, is fighting the so-called Covid slide of learning losses, an issue that still exists three months into the school year.
“Our focus now must shift 100% away from political distractions associated with this issue on to effective teaching and learning in a classroom,” Carvalho said, adding that more students need to take advantage of the district’s tutoring and after-school learning programs.