Mecklenburg Public Health to clarify that indoor mask mandate applies to public and private schools

This requirement applies to all individuals who are at least five years of age.
Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 10:19 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Mecklenburg County Public Health officials say they will be revising language in the public health rule to clarify that the indoor mask mandate applies to public, private, and parochial schools.

In a previous letter to all families, officials with the Mecklenburg Area Catholic Schools (MACS) indicated that parents and guardians would have the ability to choose when it is appropriate for their student to wear a face covering.

“I really do believe that that requirement is in the best interest of everyone’s health and safety,” said MACS parent Erin DeWaters.

DeWaters praised the success of in-person learning last school year - she believes it worked so well because masks were required along with other safety guidelines.

“That’s why for me as a parent it’s so confusing that the MACS school system has originally took this stance of optional masks and still has not come back with a required mask policy at this time,” DeWaters said.

WBTV reached out to Mecklenburg County Public Health for clarification on the mask mandate.

Public Health officials responded and said they are working to revise the Public Health Rule to clarify that all schools in Mecklenburg County are covered by the mask mandate, and the rule applies to public, private, and parochial schools in the community.

Public Health provided the following statement:

“There have been multiple questions about how the Mask Mandate Proclamation and Rule pertains to schools in Mecklenburg County. Although it was not spelled out in the language, the intent of both documents was that schools were to be included as public spaces and environments. In conversation this morning with Dr. Monroe, Superintendent of the MACS, I clarified the intent of the Rule as it pertains to all schools. One of the main drivers for the necessity of a mask mandate is the need to protect our children as they return to school and to ensure ongoing in-school education for them as we manage our way through the current surge of COVID-19 cases in our community. While I understand and appreciate the intent of the MACS option for masking, I believe that all schools should be part of the mask mandate to accomplish this intent,” the statement from Mecklenburg County Public Health read.

According to a follow-up statement from Mecklenburg Area Catholic Schools, officials will be reviewing the revised rule and adjust their operations as necessary.

“We appreciate the Mecklenburg County Health Department’s efforts to clarify the intent and revise the language of its mask mandate. After conversations with the County today, we understand they intended for schools to be covered by the mask mandate, including private and parochial schools – even though these schools are not public places or establishments covered in the initial Public Health Rule. We will review the revised Rule and adjust our operations as necessary. We remain committed to safely providing in-person instruction and as normal a learning environment as possible, as we have done since the beginning of the pandemic. Nothing is more important to us than the health and well-being of our families, staff and students, and the continued holistic development of bodies, minds and souls,” Mecklenburg Area Catholic Schools Superintendent Dr. Gregory Monroe said.

Parent Melissa Swanson said she would not be sending her child to school with a mask BUT if the school’s guidance changes so will she.

”I trust them one hundred percent when they make a call. If they make a call that we have to go back to wearing a mask then that’s what we do. We’re rule followers and we’ll follow the rules,” Swanson said.

MACS is also practicing social distancing, hand washing, and contact tracing, but DeWaters says more should be done.

“I would love to see them put masks in place for Monday morning,” DeWaters said.

Read more about the Mecklenburg County indoor mask mandate here.

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