Tuscaloosa doctors lobby schools to mandate masks as cases surge

Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 9:10 PM CDT
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WBRC) - Tuscaloosa doctors are hoping the Tuscaloosa County School District will re-evaluate its pandemic policies, telling the school board that changes are needed.

They’re asking the school district to follow the ADPH toolkit. That toolkit serves as state guidance for schools educating students during the pandemic.

“The toolkit, CDC and APP recommend universal mask mandates,” said Dr. Keisha Lowther, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics.

Dr. Lowther, a mother of three, says she’s worried for her children when they’re at school.

“The children are yours from 7-3, from 7-3 they are in your care,” she said to the board Thursday afternoon.

She was joined by other doctors who spoke in support of stricter measures against COVID.

“There are five ways in which we can mitigate the spread of COVID, vaccination, social distancing, air filtration, cleaning and mandatory mask use,” said Dr. Jahana Hill with DCH.

The final doctor, a pediatrician with 25 years experience, emphasized masking, saying that keeping students in the classroom is critically important.

“Masking is not about individual rights, it is about the rights of children to attend school and get an education in the safest way possible during a global pandemic,” said Dr. Julie Vaughn, pediatric expert.

Ultimately the board president told the doctors the board he would take their comments into consideration. It will be discussed in a private session Monday, but votes are not held in private sessions.

The TCSS in-person learning plan says that school personnel will not engage in contact tracing, but will notify parents if a child is directly exposed to COVID-19.

Under their reopening plan, TCCS says children who have a confirmed case of COVID-19 must stay home for ten days and isolate.

Local doctors say they have been told students are returning prior to that date, expressing concern that a child might come back to school and spread the virus among their peers.

“Universal masking will help decrease the likelihood of a super spreader event tracing to a particular school or classroom. It will help reduce how many days a student should stay home if they are exposed,” said Dr. Lowther.

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