The mask mandate for Fayette County public schools has cut Covid infection numbers and has allowed hundreds of exposed students to remain in schools in a modified quarantine, said Fayette County School Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Patterson in a FaceBook video Sept. 17.
“Our goal has always been to stay open,” Patterson said in a video report to parents and the public last week. “We know the importance of schooling for our parents and especially for our students. It’s the safest, best place for students to be.”
As the school year began and Covid infections began rising, ”We saw over 2,000 students that were positive or quarantined at home,” Patterson said. “That was about 10% of our total population who were at home missing school.”
That’s when the mask mandate came into play. “The main benefit we’ve seen is that we’ve been able to modify our quarantine procedures,” Patterson said. He gave the example of two masked students, one of which was Covid-positive. Because both students were masked, he said, the close-contact student would not be sent home for quarantine, but would remain in a classroom, masked and in a modified quarantine, but still being taught by an in-person teacher.
As a result, Paterson said, “Over 90% of all students who were close contact remained in school.
“There’s definitely been a correlation between when we went into face coverings and the number of cases we’ve seen,” Patterson said in the video.
“What’s happening in the community is a different story,” Patterson said. “Our community spread is still above 500. When we see Covid in our community, we see it in our schools.”
“We know that our numbers are lower than 1%,” Patterson said. “So we had to decide, was the risk of coming off the mask mandate because we are lower than 1% justified based on the number of students that might be missing school due to a close contact.
He gave two reasons why the mask mandate was extended. “One, if we were to come off a mandate, we wouldn’t be able to do the modified quarantine. That’s a big deal. We don’t want students to miss school because they are in close contact. The second reason is because the Covid numbers across our community are still high. We want to stay safe, and the most important thing is to stay open.”
The mask mandate was extended to the end of October as a result, at which time the mask mandate decision will be reevaluated, Patterson said.