Aug 15, 2022 - News

District schools to start year with face mask mandate

Illustration of magnets on a school locker in the shape of a contact tracing chart.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Students and staff in district schools must wear face masks when classes resume later this month.

  • Yes, but: Only for two weeks.

Driving the news: The School District of Philadelphia rolled out its updated COVID protocols on Friday, which stress personal responsibility over previously strict policies around quarantining and mask-wearing.

The big picture: The updated protocols come on the heels of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) loosening its recommendations amid less risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death compared to earlier in the pandemic, Axios' Sareen Habeshian writes.

  • The agency relaxed quarantine guidance and deemphasized social distancing as a key method to reduce the risk of exposure, among other things.

Details: Face masks are required for students and staff Aug. 29, the first day of school, through Sept. 9. After that, face coverings are optional but encouraged.

  • The short-term mask requirement is due to increased end-of-summer social gatherings, which heighten the risk of exposure to the virus, the district said in a statement.

Be smart: The district will reinstate mask mandates under certain circumstances:

  • When community level spread is high, according to the CDC.
  • Plus during classroom or school-wide outbreaks, and when returning from breaks and holidays.

Of note: Students and staff at all pre-K Head Start programs, which are federally funded, are still required to mask at all times.

Plus: Students and staff exposed to COVID can remain in school but must wear a face mask for 10 days.

  • Students who test positive must shift to virtual learning and quarantine for at least five days. Returning students must mask for five days at school and eat in a designated area.

Zoom out: Philly's community spread level is currently at "medium" risk, according to the CDC.

Go deeper: Visit the district's website for its most updated pandemic policies.

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