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Archdiocesan schools to require masks for the unvaccinated

Students, staff who show proof of vaccination can go without masks, updated policy states

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A slide shows part of the COVID guidelines which were presented to archdiocesan principals Aug. 5, 2021, in preparation for the new academic year.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

A slide shows part of the COVID guidelines which were presented to archdiocesan principals Aug. 5, 2021, in preparation for the new academic year.

This policy was updated Aug. 13, 2021. Please see the story and explanatory letter here.

MIAMI | Masks, social distancing and plexiglass dividers will continue to be classroom features in the Archdiocese of Miami, at least for the first few weeks of school – or as long as the delta variant of COVID-19 rampages through South Florida.

Masks will be required indoors for those who are unvaccinated, including staff, teachers, and children under 12, who are not yet eligible for the vaccine. Older students and adults will have the option of not wearing masks if they show proof that they are vaccinated, as long as social distancing of 3 to 6 feet or more can be maintained.

Masks will not be required while children and teachers are outdoors or during vigorous exercise.

That’s the gist of the archdiocese’s updated COVID-19 policy, a summary of which was released at 2 p.m. Aug. 6, 2021. Archdiocesan principals received the policy a day earlier, at their first meeting of the 2021-22 school year — also the first time they met with Jim Rigg, the archdiocese’s new superintendent of schools and secretary for education.

“We feel this is a morally and medically correct policy,” Rigg told the principals assembled for the day-long meeting at the Pastoral Center. He added that the policy has been reviewed by legal counsel for the archdiocese as well as the Florida Catholic Conference.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order July 30 prohibiting school districts from requiring that students wear masks and threatening to pull funding from those that did so. In May, DeSantis also signed into law legislation that makes it illegal for private businesses to require proof of vaccination from customers.

But Sister Elizabeth Worley, archdiocesan chancellor for administration, said she has consulted with medical professionals who agree that DeSantis’ actions are not correct from a scientific point of view. “The situation (with COVID) is worse now than it was last summer when we didn’t have a vaccine,” she said.

On Aug. 6, Florida reported 22,783 new infections, its highest daily case total since the pandemic began more than a year ago. The seven-day average of cases was 18,120 as of Aug. 4, a 675% increase from July 4 of this year.

The state now accounts for about 22% of all the new infections in the U.S. despite representing only 6.5% of the population. Hospitals are reporting increased COVID hospitalizations among a much younger population, with more than 90% of those patients unvaccinated. Several hospitals systems have once again postponed elective surgeries to deal with the overflow of COVID patients.

In an introduction to the new policy summary, Archbishop Thomas Wenski wrote that “vaccinations, masks, social distancing, etc., of course, are not 100% effective but not to attempt to mitigate risks to parishioners and school families would be a failure of pastoral oversight on my part.”

Since vaccinations came out in December, the Catholic Church has taught that it is morally acceptable to use any of the COVID-19 vaccines “in the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic.” Getting vaccinated not only conforms with the duty to protect one’s own health, according to Church teaching, but also the moral responsibility to protect “the most vulnerable” and ensure the common good.

Sister Elizabeth, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine, stressed that “the only way” to end the pandemic is through vaccination. Masks, plexiglass and social distancing are merely layered ways of preventing unchecked spread of the virus.

She noted that a few weeks ago, the archdiocesan policy might have been different, given the low case numbers in June and early July. But all that changed with the rise of the delta variant, which according to a government report, spreads as easily as chicken pox and now accounts for about 80% of all new infections in the U.S.

Sister Elizabeth stressed that the archdiocese will review the policy weekly and revise it, if necessary, to adjust to changing transmission numbers. She noted that in the United Kingdom and India the delta variant seemed to “burn itself out” after a few weeks of exponential spread. School parents will be notified of any changes.

A summary of the policy, for elementary and secondary schools, is available by clicking on the images below. (Please note that each PDF is two pages long; the image does not show the entire document.)

Corrected: The law passed by the legislature prohibits private businesses, such as cruise lines, from requiring customers to prove they have been vaccinated. It does not apply to employers, as originally stated in the story.

 

Photographer:

Comments from readers

YR - 08/13/2021 01:22 PM
How is virtual not being extended to us by each of our schools? Cases are through the roof and this was an option last year when the numbers were not as high & the Delta variant was not out there. Why the change in options? Schools have all the resources to accommodate this since they did it last year. Now, more children in class, less social distancing & not everyone masked will just be a petri dish for infection to spread. Vaccinated people can STILL pass on Covid. So why allow them to choose to mask? Yet, our unvaccinated children don't have a choice on being exposed to them. The safety of masks only works if everyone wears them. If we're willing to pay the same amount of tuition for virtual with our school, then why is this NOT a temporary option offered to us? Please reconsider offering this option. Thank you for your consideration and God bless.
A concerned grandparent - 08/13/2021 07:48 AM
My 3-year old grandson, how can I as an adult allow my Catholic Church to harm him? To not breathe fresh air, but their own spits and dirt, to not see well when mask is a constant obstruction, to not see theirs friends faces when they laugh and talk and more! Why am I going to send my grandson to Catholic schools when I know from reliable sources, physicians and lawyers, that masks don’t work but are harmful to children, and worst, being forced to get injected with an experimental substance. I think the Archdiocese should have consulted different medical professionals and scientist from both sides. There is something very wrong and unjust about this. What is the description of child abuse? This is a path leading to making something abnormal to normal.
Alexandra - 08/12/2021 05:14 AM
We are fully and deeply disengaged with the way our Catholic Church is dealing with this crisis. We are saddened to an extreme to see how the policies are being followed within our own Church, after the most discredited CDC, as well as other governmental offices, that have been proving time and time again to be biased, inflated, contradictory, and even abusive on the extent of their authority and reach. There is plenty of scientific information that discredits or at least questions their regulations (masks, lockdowns, social distancing, massive “vaccination” -with an unapproved yet (only authorized) therapeutics whose long term effects are to be seen, etc etc), and all of these opposing views are being censored. We all need to be well informed, and all those scientists who present a different perspective to the status quo are there, we just need to do the proper research. It is shameful to see how our beloved Catholic Church is falling in the trap of the enemy, and the fruits of that deceit are cooperating with the stress, depression, anxiety, division, dehumanization, scattering, falling apart, etc while forgetting that it is our faith in the risen Lord Jesus Christ that sustains us and has defeated sin, evil and death, hence there is nothing to fear. The Spirit of the risen Christ is The One who makes us worthy to serve in His presence, and not the compliance and the wearing of masks. Unfortunately, our reconsideration to tithing is our only real and effective way to make our disappointment properly manifested. We are praying for the end of this crisis, that is much bigger than a virus, that by the way will be endemic, and for the Church that we love to be rekindled in its vocation to be the Light that leads the Way, the Truth and the Life. A Life that is abundant and eternal.
Jessica - 08/11/2021 10:00 PM
It’s simple and not political, the kids can wear masks for 8 hours out of their whole day. No one is forcing them to wear it 24/7…This will reduce the spread amongst students and also protect the teachers, who are more at risk than the students…We need the teachers to feel safe in their work environment. We must do our best to protect one another. So many people on here making it seem like it’s the end of the world. The kids will wear the mask for the foreseeable future until this virus is managed… I support the ADOM and this policy. Thank you for thinking of our kids and our wonderful teachers.
Lord hear our prayers - 08/11/2021 09:58 PM
This is outrageous that public schools are going with parental options and private school aren’t. I’m glad everyone is buying into the fear the media is selling! This is a political virus! I’m sure glad we are pushing vaccines as well. Vaccines with fetus cells! As Catholics I’m sure God loves us putting that into our system. People get sick all the time and it is cruel to force our children to wear mask! I’m sure there is an agenda here too and next year it will be critical race theory! You don’t care about the children or the children of god, you only care about your money! Let the parents decide! There is no science behind this. COVID has a 99.95 survival rate and with children it is 99.97. Breathing fresh air is our GOD given freedom!
Concerned Parent - 08/11/2021 03:53 PM
This mask policy has pushed parents to withdraw their children from catholic schools! All Florida public schools are abiding by Governor's order and giving parents the choice to decide whether a mask is to be worn for their own children. It is unbelievable that the Catholic Church has taken the opposite approach, as it is a huge disgrace on the Catholic Church and Diocese as they are defying the law and executive orders. The Catholic Church & Schools are quickly deteriorating as many are leaving due to their appalling decision making.
Mel - 08/11/2021 03:24 PM
This is a terrible idea. There is data that supports that children are not in immenent harm from this virus. This should be a matter of choice and not mandatory. Even an N95 mask is insufficient protection against covid. Which only offers protection down to 0.3 microns compared to the virus' 0.1 micron. The N95 would also have to be changed every 30 minutes or so. Therefore, simple face masks such as cloths are much less effective. This is complete nonsense!
Concerned Parent - 08/11/2021 02:18 PM
This is cruel what you all are doing to our children. This is purely political. If masks were at all effective, we wouldn’t be in this mess. You should let it be the choice of the parent whether they want their child to wear masks or not. You are dehumanizing our children and taking away their ability to interact with one another with smiles and laughter. Unbelievable that you all have taken the political stance with this. You are taking our children’s god given right to breathe freely and should be ashamed of yourselves.
Jorge Benito - 08/11/2021 09:12 AM
As a medical professional, there is no literature that supports the use of masks for children. Furthermore, there are several ongoing investigations into the detrimental effects this has on kids. COVID simply does not affect children in a clinically significant manner. Expecting them to abide by a mandate that is simply not backed by science is foolish and counterproductive. This is a highly politicized stance by the archdiocese, and a clear example of the rot that has infiltrated the Catholic Church.
Mary J Rodriguez - 08/10/2021 06:47 PM
https://youtu.be/2wIFAoTVc7M And this is just another reason people are pulling their children out of Catholic schools. Take a look at science! Seems like the NIH and CDC are purely political. Do your own research.
Concerned parent - 08/10/2021 01:46 PM
How will the archdiocese monitor that schools are following guidelines? How will we as parents know if a school is in fact keeping 3ft distance between desks if there is a possibility we will not be allowed into classrooms? How do we know classrooms will not be overcrowded? There should be a maximum number of students allowed in the classrooms with these cases being as high as they are.
Mary - 08/09/2021 04:51 PM
We are bewildered that is coming from a CATHOLIC institution. These requirements are unlawful (ADA) and contradictory to our traditional roman catholic beliefs. The catholic church is heading in the wrong direction (nothing new, my parents warned us years ago) and as a result shedding more and more faithful each week. We are immediately withdrawing our school aged children and will stop ALL donations. The seem to forget we are one nation under GOD with liberty and justice for all!!! So very sad.
Barbara Mills - 08/09/2021 09:50 AM
As a grandparent of a first grader I feel to start in person instruction and not give the option of VIRTUAL will be a decision with ramifications. The positivity rate in Florida is way to high and we know according to science the Delta Variant is spread as easily as chicken pox .
LR - 08/08/2021 12:32 PM
I don't care about the politics behind this decision. I care about the future of the children caught in the middle. This decision will not protect anyone if someone is infected. The problem is that they will play outside and have lunch together. There is no science that back the idea that the virus cannot be transmitted during lunch break and recess. Children will be exposed no matter if they wear mask inside. The wearing inside to learn and outside for playing and eat does not help reduce the spread. I read that everyone is worried about the spread of the virus,hence the decision. However,seeing that the cases are up and this new virus is more contagious especially for children, why are schools open without the option of virual classes through school anymore? The schools will be full to capacity making it harder for social distancing. So based on that shouldn't the schools go back to how it was last school year? Also in the case of the vaccinated, they can still get the virus and spread it, so why are they allowed to go without a mask? My questions are based on the science and information being provided by these scientists. If the information being provided is correct, everyone should wear a mask, since the worry is about the spreading of the virus. So decision of the vaccinated having an option to wear or not wear is wrong. In my opinion,, if you want to give all children a chance of a normal learning environment, allow them to learn without the mask with pixel glass around the desk. The mask with not protect anyone as they will be exposed outside during recess and lunch. In addition children are having difficulties concentrating when wearing masks. It decrease their oxygen level which directly affects their brain function. The science behind that is undeniable. For years studies show our brain needs oxygen to function properly. Please consider our children and give parents more options.
Gustavo - 08/07/2021 01:46 AM
This policy is highly discriminatory. It looks like we are reliving segregation all over again.
Harry Anderson - 08/06/2021 06:36 PM
Both cases and hospitalizations are currently at an all time high. This seems to be a very rational approach to the crisis. The children are vulnerable and any comprehensive defense system must have a layered approach.
Eric Giunta - 08/06/2021 02:25 PM
“The situation (with COVID) is worse now than it was last summer when we didn’t have a vaccine." This is a morally irresponsible, reckless, and anti-scientific thing to say. Our mere case numbers might be higher, but there's a heck of a lot more the COVID situation than case numbers. Thanks to the vaccines and the natural immunity already acquired through previous infections people are a heck of a lot less likely to get sick from COVID -- and even less likely to be hospitalized or die -- even if they do end up testing positive. This sentence should be removed from the article, because it is grossly misleading and actually feeds into anti-vaccination mindsets and rhetoric.

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