Hawaii, the last state with an indoor mask mandate for public schools, will make masks optional.

Hawaii has complied with mask mandates longer than any other state. He waited until late March, when Omicron’s first surge was fading, ...

Hawaii has complied with mask mandates longer than any other state. He waited until late March, when Omicron’s first surge was fading, to remove its requirement for most indoor public places – and even then the requirement was selected for public schools.

But that rule, the last statewide school mask mandate in the United States, will be lifted on August 1, when most Hawaii public school students return to class for the new school year, said state officials announced on Tuesday. (State survey its mandate as an outdoor mask on school campuses in early March.)

“We’re really looking at trying to transition to a more normal classroom experience this fall,” said Dr. Sarah Kemble, state epidemiologist with the Hawaii Department of Health. virtual press conference. “This is the best opportunity we’ve had to move forward into this new normal.”

To help achieve that goal, she said, masks will become optional in Hawaii’s public schools and quarantines resulting from classroom infections will no longer be necessary. Instead, the use of masks indoors will be recommended for specific classrooms if there is a cluster of infections in that classroom, Dr Kemble said.

Face coverings in schools will only be “strongly encouraged”, not mandatory, Dr Kemble said, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determines community levels of Covid-19 to be “medium” or “high”.

The CDC uses local hospitalization rates and measures of hospital capacity, in addition to case counts, to make its decisions, which are intended to help people decide for themselves whether to wear masks or take other precautions. Where levels are high, the CDC recommends wear a properly fitted mask indoors in public, including schools, regardless of vaccination status.

Nearly 60% of counties in the United States currently have low community levels of Covid-19, according to this measure. But of the four counties of Hawaii, Three are in the high risk category and one is classified as medium risk.

“The Covid landscape has changed – we’re on a different trajectory in the pandemic,” Dr Kemble said when discussing the end of the school mask mandate. She cited several factors behind the decision, including the wide availability of vaccines for all age groups and the abundance of test kits.

Top federal health officials urged Americans this week do more to protect yourself from Covid due to rising levels of a fast-spreading Omicron subvariant known as BA.5. Officials pointed to a wide range of strategies, including the CDC’s mask recommendation for high-risk counties.

“You can be infected already — even as recently as the past two months — and have a very high rate of reinfection,” said Dr. Ashish K. Jha, President Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator. Experts say there is no evidence that BA.5 causes more serious disease.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Mr. Biden’s chief medical adviser on the pandemic, said “we shouldn’t let it disrupt our lives, but we can’t deny that it’s a reality we have to deal with. face”.

About 44% of children ages 5-11 in Hawaii are fully immunized, as are 85% of 12-17 year olds, according at the CDC But only 26% of teens ages 12 to 17 received boosters, Dr. Kemble said.

“You don’t know if the student in class sitting next to your child is going to mask up or not, so now is a really good time to boost,” she said, urging parents to get their children vaccinated. before the new school year. begin.

Heidi Armstrong, acting deputy superintendent of the state Department of Education, noted that the state’s indoor mask mandate was unpopular with some families. But she pointed out on Tuesday that he had managed to keep many more pupils in class after the disruptions of the first months of the pandemic.

Ms Armstrong said that even if the term ends, any student, teacher or employee who wishes to wear a mask indoors “will have that choice absolutely respected”.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association has expressed concern about the quality of ventilation in many schools and recommends that its members continue to wear masks indoors to maximize the chances of staying healthy, due to a shortage of substitute teachers.

“For mask mandates to be lifted successfully, we need to have clear mitigation strategies in place,” Logan Okita, the group’s vice president, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Ms. Okita, an elementary school teacher on Oahu, said Tuesday’s announcement allows teachers, students and families “time to process this information, make decisions and have these conversations at home.” home”.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Hawaii, the last state with an indoor mask mandate for public schools, will make masks optional.
Hawaii, the last state with an indoor mask mandate for public schools, will make masks optional.
Newsrust - US Top News
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