FULTON COUNTY, Ga. (CBS46) — Three days after updating its COVID-19 protocols, which kept masks optional in schools, Fulton County will now require masks for most students and staff when classes start Aug. 9.
The district says it has been closely monitoring data and consulting public health officials as it updated its protocols Thursday morning. In an email, the district attributed its decision to make masks mandatory to the continued rise in cases in Fulton County and the state.
"13 of the 14 cities in Fulton County exceeded the level of public health officials consider 'High Community Spread.' Therefore, schools and facilities in these jurisdictions will require masks effective Monday, August 9."
The mask mandate, at this time, does not affect all students and staff. Of the combined 37 schools and administrative facilities, three schools will continue to allow masks to be optional:
- Johns Creek Elementary School
- Johns Creek Middle School
- Johns Creek High School
This could change throughout the school year. You can view the link of affected facilities here.
The correspondence went on to say that all staff and students are required to report a confirmed positive test, a pending COVID-19 test result, and direct contact with a person who is COVID-19 positive.
The CDC announced Thursday it now recommends masks for everyone in schools regardless of vaccination status.
Metro Atlanta schools have different policies in place. Some are requiring them while others are keeping them optional.
Dr. Keyana Washington, a practicing pediatrician and CEO of Gwinnett Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, encourages parents to send their children to school wearing a mask even if it's not required in their district. She said that will help ensure in-person learning remains a possibility.
"Put your mask on, encourage your children to put their mask on, encourage their teachers to put their mask on, everyone needs to be wearing a mask," she said.
"I would say we should try to get our children in school in person as much as possible with a mask on their face, that is what we need to do," said Dr. Washington. "In school learning offers not just the educational opportunities but the social skill development and the emotional development that children and teens need.”
She encourages parents to get children 12 and older vaccinated. She said she is waiting for the time when her own seven-year-old son is eligible to get the vaccine.
"What I am worried about is particularly in the districts where masks are optional is COVID running rampant among the staff and so they're having 20 percent of teachers out with COVID, how are they going to sustain that school and allow that school to stay open?"