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All but two school districts in NC now require masks within buildings

Tuesday night, during an emergency called meeting of the Polk County Board of Education, the board voted to reverse earlier decisions and now require masks for students and staff.  Since August 25, 23 school districts across North Carolina have reversed their mask policies to now require face covering for students and staff during the school day. 

Based on the most recent information available for the state, 114 of the state’s 116 school districts now require masks for students this Fall. After 23 school districts changed their policies to now require face coverings over the last two weeks, there are only two school districts, Union and Yancey County, in the state that still have masks as optional for both staff and students. Avery County requires masks for staff, but not students. 

While Yancey County is scheduled to hold a meeting on Thursday and are expected to discuss the issue, Union County Schools met Tuesday night and voted to keep masks optional despite over 5,000 students and staff quarantined across the district and despite having the largest reported cluster in a K-12 district in the state. Union Academy Charter School’s reported cluster — grew to 111 cases, with 98 of those students and 13 among faculty.

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. 

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 73 clusters in K-12 classrooms across 35 NC Counties.  The schools reporting clusters reported 52 staff positive cases and 429 positive student cases. This week, NCDHHS is reporting 125 clusters across 45 counties — an increase of 52 from the total of 73 last week. There were just 45 schools on the NCDHHS report on Aug. 24.

Children make up nearly 88 percent of the nearly 1,250 total cases in those listed clusters in K-12 schools.

Wake County has the most schools with clusters, with the 15 in the county marking an increase of three from last week.

Seven schools across the state have clusters of at least 20 cases, and four of those are in Wake County — including a newly reported cluster of 20 cases at Cardinal Charter Academy at Wendell Falls.

The cluster designation means local health officials believe there is “plausible epidemiological linkage” between five or more cases connected to the school.

On Tuesday, Sep. 7, Jackson County Public Schools announced its visitor policy had been revised. Effective immediately, only those who provide academic support will be allowed inside school district buildings. Jackson County’s announcement comes just days after the school district announced it would require spectators at indoor sporting events to wear a face mask. Masks are currently not required at outdoor athletic events.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as of Aug. 25, 2021, a total of 385 children ages 0-17 have died of COVID in the United States. For the same age range and time period, 887 have died from pneumonia.

The number of positive tests in North Carolina children ages 0-17 is 168,593 or just under 14% of all cases in the state to date.  The dashboard demographics view also shows a total of 5 total deaths for children of that age range, none of which have been attributed to schools.

Hospitalization of children ages 0-17 between Oct. 1, 2020, and Aug. 31, 2021, has been very low — registering statistically between 0 and 1%, even in recent weeks.

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