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ADPH still pushing universal masking in schools

Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 3:54 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 29, 2021 at 6:14 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - According to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), the number of Alabama school students getting COVID has dropped. But they say that doesn’t mean schools should drop their mask mandates.

Last week, the number of Alabama students testing positive for COVID dropped from 6,300 to 3,800, but the state health department still urges local school systems to keep their mask mandates.

Alabama’s top doctor said some school systems feel like ADPH’s guidance has changed, but he says it hasn’t. As the number of COVID cases has declined, some Alabama school systems are dropping mask mandates in favor optional face coverings.

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said the student COVID numbers are too high.

“Base on our pediatric numbers is 200% higher than we were the same week a year ago. So there is still a lot of cases going on,” Harris said.

Health leaders said the transmission rate in Alabama is high and that is why steps have to be taken to slow the spread of the virus.

“We still have a high risk of COVID-19 spread. We still have a lot of spread and active cases in our community,” Dr. Wesley Willeford with the Jefferson County Department of Health said.

The ADPH put out a media release again encouraging mitigation standards to continue in schools around the state.

“We are nowhere near where we need to be to step away from the mitigation in the schools and classrooms,” Dr. Karen Landers with ADPH said.

ADPH is recommending students wear face covering in schools and to maintain three feet of distance if possible to control the spread. The health department is not mandating the face coverings, but their guidance and recommendations remain the same.

“The state is not going to mandate it, but every school board has the authority to do that. People ought to be doing that whether your school board is mandating it or not,” Harris said.

The state health officer also says there is no change of policy when it comes to reporting to ADPH or quarantining student COVID cases.

“Local school systems are feeling a lot of pressure and people are trying to tell them the guidance has changed or there is not the same force of authority in the toolkit as a year ago. It has not changed,” Harris said.

The number of COVID cases in Alabama and the rate of transmission will have to drop even more before the health department will back off on the call for universal masking. We are talking about 10 positive cases per 100,000 and below 5% positivity. As of late September, Alabama’s rate is 38 per 100,000 and a 13% positivity rate.

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