Health experts say masks necessary, public schools sending mixed signals

Alabama News

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – School systems across North Alabama are continuing to evaluate their mask requirements. This comes as health officials say the number of kids impacted by the Delta variant is much higher than what we’ve seen over the course of the pandemic.

One in four people testing positive for COVID-19 are children. Huntsville Hospital’s Dr. Ali Hassoun says this results in more pediatric COVID cases being treated in the hospital.

“There is definitely more admission of children with COVID-19 disease with the Delta variant compared to the previous variant,” Dr. Hassoun said.

Only 11.6 percent of kids aged 0-17 are vaccinated in Alabama, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Health leaders say masking is an essential part of preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Last week, Dr. Karen Landers with ADPH told News 19 that now is not the time to end making requirements in schools.

“We are not where we need to be to really, in my mind, put our children in harm’s way, and our teachers, and our staff members in school, they’ve already suffered enough. So, let’s try to do all we can to keep people safe,” Karen Landers said.

“School districts that are in counties that are experiencing high levels of virus circulation in their community it would be ill-advised to reduce the mask requirements and precautions in school,” said Dr. Scott James with UAB.

All counties in North Alabama have high transmission rates.

The Alabama Department of Education said it is up to school systems to implement mask requirements. Madison City Schools announced last week that it would end its masking requirement, but Wednesday the order was back in effect after the superintendent said the school board should vote on it.

In many areas of the state school systems in the same county have different mask requirements. For example, Morgan County Schools ended their mask requirement this month while Decatur City Schools requires masks in the buildings and on buses.

Some lawmakers are seeking to regulate masking in schools, but it may not make masking more streamlined. A pre-filed House bill sponsored by Republican Representative Chip Brown from Mobile would give parents the opportunity to allow their child to opt-out of wearing a face mask at school.

“We know the kids can be a method of transmission to adults,” Dr. Hassoun said.

Doctors continue to say preventing kids from getting COVID-19 could protect the entire community.

Last week, many school systems planned to evaluate their mask mandates. Boaz City Schools, Albertville City Schools and Colbert County Schools decided to extend their masking requirement until October 1.

Lawrence County Schools extended their requirement till September 24, when it will expire.

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