SMITHFIELD, N.C. (WNCN) – Johnston County’s board of education on Tuesday narrowly voted to reverse its decision less than two weeks ago to make masks optional.

The board had decided on July 29 that masks would be optional for students. During Tuesday’s meeting, board members voted 4-3 to instead require face coverings in schools.

“I hate COVID. I hate the fact that we have to address this,” said board member Lyn Andrews. “This is what it is, and I hate masks. I hate putting them on small children. I hurt for the kids who have to wear these masks all day long. I don’t want that for them.

“But I do know this — they’re not going to learn if they’re not in school.”

Vice-chair Terri Sessoms pointed out that Johnston County is returning COVID-19 tests with positives at a 14.1 percent clip.

“That is the same level where we were in December when the health department urged us to shut the schools down. I don’t know of any family that wants schools shut down again,” Sessoms said.