The St. Joseph County Health Department is urging all county K-12 schools to implement universal indoor mask mandates. That follows Centers for Disease Control guidance recommending students, teachers, staff and visitors all wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.
Like the rest of the country, Indiana is currently experiencing a surge of COVID-19 cases due to the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
And the CDC recommended last week that vaccinated Americans go back to wearing masks indoors in areas of substantial or high community spread of the virus.
According to the CDC’s tracker, St. Joseph County is currently classified as having substantial community spread.
In a news release, the health department said St. Joseph County had 84 cases per 100,000 people over the past week, and the CDC defines substantial transmission as 50-99.9 cases per 100,000 people each week.
South Bend Community School Corporation implemented a universal mask mandate on Monday. Previously, masks were only required for students in grades five or below. Unvaccinated staff and students were strongly recommended to wear face masks but were not required to do so.
School City of Mishawaka is still mask optional, and Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation is expected to decide on a mask policy Monday.
Americans under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, and according to the health department, less than 25 percent of St. Joseph County residents aged 12 to 18 are fully vaccinated.
“Therefore, the overwhelming majority of individuals in K-12 classrooms in St. Joseph County this fall will not have been vaccinated,” the health department said in an Aug. 6 news release.
Unvaccinated Americans, which includes all children under 12, were recommended to wear masks indoors before the CDC’s new guidelines.
Indiana state education officials have “strongly urged” masks in schools, but will not require them and are leaving the decision up to individual districts.
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