The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services made the decision late this summer to not mandate masks for schools across the state, however, they did strongly recommend that districts make the decision for their respective schools.
Based on the most recent information available for the state, 91 of the state’s 116 school districts currently require masks for students this Fall. There are 25 districts in the state that still have masks as optional for students. Although 91 of the state’s school districts currently require masks — 21 of those districts had originally planned to begin the school year with face coverings being optional, however either due to a spike in cases after school started, or a surge of positive in the community ahead of school beginning, local school leaders reversed earlier decisions, electing to require face coverings this school year.
The Macon County Board of Education met Monday night to discuss the district’s current face-covering policy, and after hearing from Macon County Director of Public Health Kathy McGaha, the board decided to keep its current face-covering requirement in place. McGaha said that she recommends face coverings be required until Macon County is placed in the “yellow” category for the state’s COVDI19 community spread alert system.
“We want to see our county in a place where face coverings will not be required and we think this is a great way to help us get there,” said Board of Education Chairman Jim Breedlove.
While providing data to the Macon County Board of Education on Monday night, McGaha noted that out of the 142 ICU beds serving all nearly 1 million WNC residents — due to the current COVID19 surge there were only 27 beds available. While Macon County currently has no children hospitalized for COVID19, there are currently 25 students positive for COVID19 in Macon County. Out of all of Macon County COVID19 cases, 16% of the current positive cases are in children 0-17 years old. There are a number of Macon County residents currently hospitalized due to COVID19 complications.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services updates data regarding clusters and outbreaks across the state every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Last week, the NCDHSS reported 19 clusters in K-12 classrooms across 13 NC Counties. Last week the state reported due to the clusters, there were 28 staff positive for COVID19 and 251 children positive. This week, with more schools returning for in-person instruction, NCDHSS is reporting 39 clusters — 16 of which are repeated from the prior week — throughout 25 counties. The schools reporting clusters reported 52 staff positive cases and 429 positive student cases.
Of the school districts reporting clusters in K-12 classrooms in NC, 12 counties currently mandate masks, 6 counties currently have masks as optional, and 7 districts started the year with optional masks but have now reversed the decision to mandate face coverings.
Across Western North Carolina, five of the state’s seven westernmost counties require masks be worn indoors — with Cherokee and Graham Counties keeping masks optional at this point.