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Feature News | Friday, August 13, 2021

Archdiocesan elementary schools to require masks for all

Masks 'encouraged' but optional for high school students, staff who show proof of vaccination

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MIAMI | After initially making masks optional for staff, teachers and students who are vaccinated, the archdiocese changed its policy this week. It now requires masks for all students, employees and volunteers in elementary schools, regardless of vaccination status. Masks will be optional, “but encouraged,” for all fully vaccinated individuals in high schools.

Children under 12 currently are not eligible for vaccination.


“We are taking a different approach to masking in our high schools due to the availability of a vaccine for all students and employees,” wrote Jim Rigg, superintendent of schools, in a letter sent to Catholic school parents and employees Aug. 13, 2021.

The revised policy will remain in effect “through at least Aug. 31,” Rigg’s letter stated. “We will continue to evaluate our policy continuously in the days and weeks to come,” he added, as the pandemic evolves. School parents will be notified of any changes.

Masks will not be required while students and teachers are outdoors, eating or during vigorous exercise.

An email to school leaders announcing the changes stressed that “all other COVID mitigation efforts that were in place last year are to be maintained to the extent possible with social distancing being as important as the usage of masks.”

That means 3 feet of separation between students and 6 feet between adults and students or adult to adult. It also means keeping plexiglass shields on desks, one-way patterns in the hallways, student seats facing in one direction, classes remaining in place with teachers changing, or classes remaining as a cohort, social distance in the lunch lines and hallways, attention to hand-washing and daily cleaning of all spaces used by students, avoiding close face-to-face encounters and “choosing outdoors whenever possible.”

“These updates are in response to the continued progression of the virus throughout South Florida,” the email to school leaders stated, especially as “COVID-related trends continue to worsen.”

On Aug. 12, Miami-Dade County reported a seven-day average positivity rate of 14.2 percent, and a weekly increase of approximately 360 new cases, on average, every day. “For PCR confirmed cases, the median age is 37 years (range is 0 to 111 years old), 14.9% are children aged 5-17 (15.5% in the previous week), 28.6% are young adults aged 18-34 years (29.0% % in the previous week).”


Also as of Aug. 12, Broward County reported its pediatric ICUs were at 93% of capacity and adult ICUs were at 96% of capacity. The number of COVID-positive patients admitted to Broward hospitals had increased to 1,614 from 1,489 a day earlier.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the seven-day moving average of cases in Florida was 21,375 as of Aug. 12, a 378% increase from July 12 of this year. The state is breaking case-count records set during the previous surge in January 2021, and now accounts for about 19% of all the new infections in the U.S. despite representing only 6.5% of the population.

Hospitals are reporting that more than 90% of their COVID-positive patients are unvaccinated. Several hospital systems have once again postponed elective surgeries to deal with the overflow of COVID patients.

The Aug. 13 policy also updated and simplified the rules for quarantining and testing when staff and students return from trips within Florida, the U.S. or internationally.

The unvaccinated do not have to quarantine or test after traveling within Florida. If they travel outside Florida but within the U.S., their school or parish could require a seven-day quarantine and a negative PCR test. A seven-day quarantine and negative PCR test will be mandatory for anyone who is unvaccinated if they travel outside the U.S.

The fully vaccinated will not have to quarantine or test if they travel within Florida or the U.S. If they travel internationally, they will not have to quarantine but will have to take a PCR test “on day 3, 4 or 5” after their return, and report the results to the school or parish.

The rest of the archdiocese’s updated COVID-19 policy, a summary of which was posted Aug. 6, 2021, has not changed. The summary was released after it was announced to principals gathered for their first meeting of the year, Aug. 5, when they also met for the first time with Rigg, who took over as superintendent July 6, 2021.

Corrected: The seven-day moving average of cases in Florida has been updated since this article was originally posted.


Comments from readers

B Dolan - 10/12/2021 09:58 AM
Jesus would not force masks on innocent children. This policy is cowardly and anti-science. Lots of stale stats reflected in the article above. When does this stop? I am happy to pay for Catholic education, but my patience is is the case with many other parents.
Beth W - 10/10/2021 03:56 PM
Masks can kill. My mother died in June because she got a rare bacterial lung infection that damaged her lungs and killed her. Doctors & nurses at Baptist ICU told me they had never even heard of this bacteria! The bacteria is only found in wet soil and is not air-born. Therefore, she died because of contact with a dirty mask through which the bacteria reached her respiratory track. So masks can kill. Healthy people should never wear masks! We refuse now to wear one.
Concern Parent - 09/14/2021 12:45 AM
Concern Parent - 09/01/2021 11:06 PM
Your decisions about masking our children is not based on science. Children are the least ones to get Covid or die from it unless they have any underline medical conditions. There is no need to have our children masked or vaccinated. Matter fact here is the science And here is the science from the Lancet Report which is the Doctors bible for medicine That’s the science so choose wisely your decision because you do not have any science to support your theory
Lord help us - 08/16/2021 07:10 PM
There is massive data that shows masks are useless. Make no mistake, masks are symbols of fear and compliance. Child Abuse!
Fred Blankenstop - 08/14/2021 11:57 PM
I support the Archbishop's leadership and realistic view. We have too many people in the hospital to be foolish. God job school leaders!
Trust but Verify Parent - 08/13/2021 07:29 PM
Do NOT rely on CDC...CDC admits it DID overcount Florida's COVID cases: Agency revises down state's weekend numbers from 28,000 to 19,000 but offers no explanation after falsely claiming 'record' infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has quietly updated Florida's COVID-19 figures after accusations of overcounting earlier this week.

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