Parishes | Schools | Priests | Masses |
More in this section MAIN MENU

Masks in schools could be optional again

Assuming transmission numbers stay low, archdiocese announces new COVID-19 protocols

MIAMI | Assuming the COVID-19 numbers continue to decline in South Florida, the Archdiocese of Miami expects to make mask-wearing in schools optional again, as early as Jan. 28, 2022.

The announcement was made in a letter and updated protocols emailed to parents in archdiocesan schools Saturday afternoon, Jan. 22. (Click on the links to read and download each one.)

“While we have seen record-breaking infection rates in recent weeks due to the Omicron Variant, rates are now declining rapidly,” wrote Schools Superintendent Jim Rigg in the letter to parents. “We project that these declines will continue in the coming days. As such, we are tentatively planning to restore opt-outs for masks beginning Friday, January 28. This opt-out would apply to fully vaccinated students and families that have previously submitted a Parent Consent for Student Opt-Out Form.”

The updated protocols, effective Monday, Jan. 24, modify the isolation period for students who test positive for COVID. The new protocols are in line with Centers for Disease Control guidelines that call for five days of isolation rather than 10.

“Effective Monday, Jan 24, the Archdiocesan protocol requires isolation for all persons diagnosed positive, regardless of vaccination status, of a minimum of 5 days or longer if needed for the full resolution of symptoms, followed by a negative antigen test result,” the updated protocol states.

It adds: “A Parent’s Statement will be shared with parents whenever a child needs to be quarantined (because of a close contact) or isolated (because of a positive diagnosis). It outlines not only the number of days of the protocols but the specific testing requirements at the beginning (for isolation) and at the end (for quarantine).”

Although mask-wearing could become optional once more even for unvaccinated students in archdiocesan schools, the protocol notes that the archdiocese continues to recommend the use of masks, especially the CDC-recommended N95 or KN95.

“While the surge of COVID infection has peaked in South FL it has not improved sufficiently to reduce all caution with respect to masks,” the protocol notes. “The Archdiocese of Miami strongly encourages use of masks including the use of KN95 masks or equivalent regardless of vaccination status.”

The protocol clarifies what it calls a “distortion” of CDC guidelines: “that cloth masks have no value.”

“If a KN95 or surgical mask is available for the student she/he is encouraged to use it. A cloth mask continues to provide protection, for the student. The Archdiocese does not mandate the type of mask to be used; however, the ADOM continues to strongly encourage the use of a mask when indoors and in the period following a 5-day quarantine or recovery from a COVID infection – when the KN95 mask is strongly recommended.”

The updated protocol adds a note of caution, however: “This communication is with the expectation that the number of cases per 100,000 population would continue its decline and soon return to the levels as in late November when the consent to opt out was first implemented (61.7 cases/100,000 for the week ending Nov 25, 2021). While we hope it is not the case, depending on the COVID statistics for the most recent week, there remains the possibility that we may hesitate in our announcement or adjust this protocol in the future depending on the public health conditions in the community.”

The superintendent’s letter concludes this way: “I am hopeful that we are moving beyond the current COVID surge. Please continue to pray for an end to this pandemic, and for all who have been directly impacted.”