PANAMA CITY, FLA. (WMBB) — On Tuesday, the CDC revised its recommendations regarding COVID-19, advising that masks are worn by vaccinated people in schools. This change in recommendation comes as the Delta variant of COVID-19 increases across the United States.
Throughout the last school year, as Bay District Schools dealt with the pandemic, the school board followed the guidance from the CDC. However, school board members said on Tuesday that masks will be optional this school year.
“It’s strictly voluntary,” School Board Member Brenda Ruthven said of masks. “And we’re still going to do, making sure our schools are clean. We’re going to make sure that all safety precautions are kept.”
Ruthven said that she is against requiring a mask mandate. Instead, she is in favor of parents deciding whether or not their students should wear masks, and whether they are vaccinated.
The school district will continue to quarantine students and staff as directed by state protocol. For members of the district who are exposed to COVID-19, but are vaccinated, BDS will only require them to quarantine if they experience symptoms after exposure.
However, the school district is unable to ask students and faculty if they are vaccinated. Without being able to determine if someone is vaccinated, it makes it increasingly difficult to quarantine.
“Governor DeSantis has been very clear that he’s not going to mandate any school district in the state of Florida to make masks optional,” BDS Chairman Steve Moss said. “A lot of our funding comes from the Florida Department of Education which is overseen by the Governor. And it’ll be interesting to see if there’s money attached to whether school districts decide to make masks mandatory or not.”
The Bay District School system does not plan to require vaccination cards from its members. However, if outbreaks occur within the school system, the policy could change to adapt a rise in cases, Moss said.