1 NC school board votes to make masks optional

Coronavirus

CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) — The Cabarrus County School Board voted Monday to make masks optional starting Oct. 26.

The decision follows a COVID-19 taskforce meeting on Thursday, in which members changed the criteria that determines whether students should mask.

Previously, the district was only using the county positivity rate, the number of county-wide positive tests over the previous 14 days, and the number of hospitalizations to determine whether students should wear masks in the classroom. Now, the metric includes data specific to the school system, which they feel paint a more relevant picture.

Cabarrus County School COVID-19 numbers are currently at an all-time low.

Less than one percent of the student population is quarantining, and just 65 students are positive. But the board’s decision to make masks optional wasn’t unanimous. The vote only passed 4-3.

“What if, what if, what if? What if we give kids a chance to be kids again and go to school with the option of wearing a mask?” School Board member Tim Furr said.

However, there were other School Board members who felt the opposite.

“I would rather be safe than sorry,” member Carolyn Carpenter said. “I’d like for it all to be at 5-percent with low community spread. I’d like for it all to be in green.”

In the county’s new metric, if three of four categories are in the green or yellow zone, masks can be optional.

The categories include county percent positive rates, the total number of positive cases in both the county and the district, and the number of student quarantines.

“It’s good to have Cabarrus County school numbers versus the Cabarrus County complete population, which is all we have been using since day one,” board chair Holly Grimsley said.

With masks optional, the biggest risk for the district is a potential increase of student quarantines.

When everyone is masked, only those who test positive must quarantine. But if an unmasked student comes in contact with a positive case, or a masked student comes in contact with an unmasked positive case, both parties are required to stay home. Additionally, students who are vaccinated do not need to quarantine when coming into contact with a positive case, regardless of if they are wearing a mask.

“As masks come off, it’s predictable that quarantines will logically increase. That will increase the amount of time that school staff will have to put into contact tracing,” said Student Services Director John Basilice.

State law requires school board to vote on masking every month, so they will revisit the mask requirement at their November meeting. Masks will still be required on all school buses and transportation.

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