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Medical experts advocate for mandatory masks in schools

Posted at 9:20 PM, Jul 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-28 21:20:29-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — As states look at how to handle the increase in COVID cases, schools are now being forced to take another look at their policies ahead of the year.

Leon County schools is among those who will keep masks wearing-optional.

Growing cases of the delta variant and new guidance from the CDC are renewing calls to change the mask policy for Leon County Schools. A local pediatrician today says there's still a lot of uncertainty ahead.

With the current school plan, masks will be optional inside LCS schools this Fall. The mask wearing debate went on for hours during Tuesday night's school board meeting. After the CDC recommended masks indoors for everyone. American Academy of Pediatrics Florida Chapter Immediate Past President Dr. David Paul Robinson says now is the time to revisit the policy ahead of the school year.

"I think optional would have been enough if we were still dealing with the Alpha variant but we're not dealing with the Alpha variant we're dealing with the delta variant. And it is much worse, it seems to affect children worse. There are more pediatric intensive care units with children in them around the country now from the delta variant," said Dr. Robinson.

Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna says if things get worse and hospitalizations of children go up, the district could look at bringing back their mask mandate.

"How many children's deaths are you willing to accept, in the name of not having to wear a mask?"said. Dr. Robinson. "The delta variant is a different creature. Kids are getting sick with the delta variant. We don't yet know how bad it's going to be."

Just weeks before the bell rings and class resumes, teachers and parents are worried about what the delta variant may do to them.

Jessica Bartle is a teacher at Rickards High School. She's been an out spoken advocate for stronger COVID precautions in Leon County Schools for the 2021-2022 school year.

"If I get COVID, especially the Delta variant, even being fully vaccinated, because of my health condition, I probably won't die but I also won't be able to get out of the bed for a month," she said.

LCS grandparent Wendy Halleck is also an outspoken advocate.
"Children will be bringing it home to their families, even vaccinated family members. To grandparents aunts uncles there are a lot of children that live in multi- generational households," said Halleck.

Yet, LCS Superintendent Rocky Hanna remains firm in his stance to keep masks optional.

"And I think I've listened and listened and listened. And at the end of the day, we're just going to agree to disagree potentially," Hanna said at Tuesday's School Board meeting.

However, there are other safety measures in place. Teachers can conduct temperature checks if they want, but they're not mandatory. Anyone within 6 feet of someone symptomatic or positive has to quarantine for 10 days, regardless of masked or not. Plus, no visitors or field trips for elementary schools for at least the first 9 weeks.

Despite changes to CDC guidelines, Superintendent Hanna says his direction comes from above the district.

"We're really not setting policies, what we find ourselves is caught in between in the crossfires, of recommendations from the State Department of Health, which is overseen by the governor, down to our local Department of Health and these recommendations is guided by the CDC," said Hanna.

Leon County Schools students return August 11.