Educators call for mask mandate in schools as academic year nears

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The beginning of the 2021-22 school year is just weeks away, and with Mississippi facing rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the Mississippi Association of Educators is calling on Governor Tate Reeves to implement a mask mandate for teachers and students. 

In a video posted to Facebook, MAE President Erica Jones expressed the organization’s concern regarding the lack of a “statewide, comprehensive plan” to protect teachers and students as they return to the classroom. 

“With the Delta variant taking hold in communities across Mississippi, the concerning trajectory of new COVID-19 cases, and our state’s low vaccination rate, we are asking the governor to reconsider his position on masks in Mississippi schools and mandate the use of masks for all individuals inside our buildings,” Jones said. 

Recently, the Mississippi State Department of Health released its updated guidelines for K-12 schools to reflect that vaccinated teachers and students do not need to wear a mask—similar to CDC recommendations. However, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs recently stated that a majority of the state’s teachers are not vaccinated. 

Governor Tate Reeves has remained consistent and is now reiterating that state-issued mask mandates for schools will not continue as they did last year with Mississippi’s ‘State of Emergency’ order set to expire on August 15th.

”Governor Reeves has no intention of requiring students and staff to wear masks when they’re in school this fall,” a spokesperson from his office stated. 

Individual school districts can require masks, but most will begin the year with masks being optional. 

The MAE’s call comes as the Delta variant of COVID-19 is causing cases and other indicators, such as hospitalizations, to surge in Mississippi. Last week saw multiple one-day rises of over 1,000 new cases and this morning, a weekend total of 3,608 was reported by MSDH. Additionally, hospitalizations are up to 574—up from 94 in late June. Dr. Dobbs tweeted this morning that 43% of hospitalizations are now among those under 50

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently made a similar plea, asking that masks be mandated in schools while highlighting the state’s low vaccination rate and the fact the students under 12 aren’t able to get vaccinated. 

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