Miami-Dade schools’ mask mandate could be relaxed by end of the month

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho – Mask Mandate – Courtesy: Getty Images

Miami-Dade County Public Schools could ease the mask mandate by the end of the month according to Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. On Wednesday, Carvalho stated that local rates of COVID-19 hospitalizations and infections have declined significantly since the start of the 2021-2022 academic school year, as has the number of students needing to go into quarantine.

Additionally, most individuals eligible to receive a vaccination against coronavirus in the district have received at least one dose.

During the School Board’s monthly meeting in downtown Miami, the superintendent stated that the district could make an announcement about lessening the mask mandate by the end of this week or the beginning of next. The decision will be made based on when the latest COVID-19 data is released by the state Department of Health, which occurs on Fridays, and based on a task force of local doctors’ advice to the district on its coronavirus policy.

“That will put us in a position of being able, with the wise counsel of our task force, of shifting from a mandatory masking protocol with medically endorsed accommodations, or for students with individual education plans, yes, a mandatory mask policy, but with an unrestricted parent opt-out provision,” he said.

Initially, the district intended on making masks optional for both staff and students this academic year, but it changed course late in the summer before school started as the contagious delta variant spread quickly throughout South Florida, leading to a spike in hospitalizations and deaths.

When announcing that facial coverings would be mandatory, Carvalho promised that the policy would be reviewed weekly and could be relaxed if an improvement in conditions is shown. He said that quarantine rules and the mask mandate have worked for those exposed to someone infected with COVID-19.

“We have lower positivity rates in our schools than in the surrounding community. We have never had the number of quarantined students that other districts in Florida much smaller than our district have had. In some cases, smaller districts than ours had 19% of their student population quarantined,” he told School Board members. “Our percentage of students who were ever quarantined at any point in time was always significantly lower than that.”

The district reached an all-time low last week for students required to quarantine. Less than 1,000 children out of a total of 330,000 students were quarantined. He said the low rates have been due to the district’s COVID protocols, including mask mandates and quarantine policies. 

“They [the district’s COVID policies] have worked because they have stayed the course. And, they have worked because they have been well-informed. They are not a matter of opinion; they’re a matter of expert recognition and advice,” he said.

The mask subject took up a significant portion of public commenting during the school board meeting, with a crowd of vocal anti-maskers making their opinions known.

“There is nothing these children need to be protected from other than well-funded politicians using them [kids] as a virtue-signaling prop and psychological experiments,” said Rose Henderson, who said she was a parent but did not indicate whether she had children in Miami-Dade Public Schools.

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