Education

NC needs to see 3 things before lifting mask mandate for students in classrooms

Posted June 3, 2021 4:22 p.m. EDT

Kid, mask, classroom

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is looking at three different metrics in determining whether to remove the indoor masking requirement for students, officials told the board Thursday.

The mask requirement isn’t likely to change soon.

To change, DHHS officials will have to see low COVID-19 transmission rates, vaccine eligibility for children younger than 12, and/or more research indicating low impact of the virus on children, Dr. Betsy Tilson, state health director and chief medical officer, told the North Carolina State Board of Education on Thursday. Currently, officials are looking at long-term symptoms of the virus among even people who only had mild cases of COVID-19, as well as an increase in Type 1 diabetes diagnoses in children that correlates with high rates of COVID-19 spread.

“But it is a good thing that the acute symptoms tend to be less for our children and they tend to spread less,” Tilson said. “That’s why we’re very supportive of in-person school. When you look at the risk-benefit ratio, having kids in class outweighs the risk of spread of infection.”

Board Member Amy White said she was concerned the wait to lift the mask mandate could extend into the winter. She said the public confidence in wearing masks was waning.

Tilson said health officials have ample evidence since the COVID-19 outbreak that masks prevent COVID-19 spread.

In the early days of the pandemic, federal health officials urged the public not to buy masks that were needed by health professionals and said they likely wouldn’t do much to protect people. Since then, they’ve promoted masks, after research showing that COVID-19 was airborne and that masks prevented spread.

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