A Maryland legislative committee on Friday approved a State Board of Education decision allowing all 24 local school districts to decide whether face coverings are required in schools.
The decision takes effect immediately to end the emergency order requiring face coverings in schools that has been in effect since the beginning of the school year. Both Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, and the state’s school director, Mohammed Choudhury, lobbied for the decision, which was made the same day as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued it. New face covering guidelines allow many other areas of the nation to ease pandemic restrictions.
Other states also announced easing of some restrictions on Friday, including California, Colorado and Illinois.
The Maryland State Education Association, which represents 76,000 teachers and other support workers, has called for caution, asking that the mask-wearing mandate be maintained longer.
The rule was updated in December to allow local school systems to end the requirement to wear face masks if the spread of the coronavirus remains moderate or low for two weeks, or if immunization rates higher than 80 percent in the school or community. A few school districts have already passed this threshold, and one school district, Anne Arundel County, met the standards and decided to make masks optional. Face coverings will still be required on school buses.
Cheryl Bost, a 4th and 5th grade teacher and union president, said in an interview that the system is working well and that the school districts have reached a safe level. She urged waiting a week or two before removing the state’s mask mandate.
“You have to allow school districts and families time to make a decision,” she said. “There are now students and educators who can participate in face-to-face instruction because of the duty to wear a mask.”
Ms Bost, who is immunocompromised, said the union wanted students and families with higher levels of vulnerability to have remote learning options. Educators with special medical needs should also take sick leave or make alternative work arrangements, she said, and districts should continue to provide masks, testing and contact tracing to keep infection rates down. community transmission is low.
Fewer than 10 states still require masks in K-12 schools, although federal guidance recommends that people in areas with outbreaks and all students, teachers and school staff wear masks. regardless of their vaccination status. Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Oregon, among other states, have announced plans to lift statewide mask requirements in schools, citing that the increase in Omicrons has eased. .
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will release new guidance on Friday to determine when and where people should wear masks, practice social distancing and avoid crowded spaces indoors. According to two federal officials with knowledge of the plans, the guidance will direct counties to consider three measures to assess risk of contracting the virus: the number of new Covid-related hospitalizations in the last week, the rate of hospital beds with Covid patients and the number of new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people compared to last week.
“Using the new framework, Maryland is in a great place,” said Choudhury, the school’s superintendent. “We cannot mask our children forever. This is a good time to do it.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/26/us/maryland-school-masks.html Maryland lifts mask mandate for schools statewide