Masking rules move in 2 directions in Fayette

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Mask policies changed in two local institutions this week — the Fayette County School System and the Piedmont Fayette Hospital.

One — the school system — moved to a more lenient policy, while the other — the county’s only hospital — moved to a more stringent requirement.

The hospital no longer permits simple cloth masks as face covering, according to a news release Jan. 26.

Visitors and patients at Piedmont Fayette Hospital must now wear medical masks, as opposed to cloth masks, when at the hospital, the hospital news release said.

The goal of the updated masking policy is to prevent the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant of Covid-19. The new rule applies across the Piedmont system to visitors, patients and staff.

“Medical masks, when worn properly, offer a better fit for those wearing them and can provide a better level of protection than cloth masks,” said Angela Swayne, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of Piedmont Fayette.

Surgical masks, KN95 or N95 masks are accepted. If a patient or visitor does not have an appropriate mask, hospital staff will provide one.

The 24 in-person schools in the Fayette system are going in a different direction as of Jan. 25, making simple cloth face coverings optional in classrooms, but not in school buses.

In an email to parents Monday, the system lifted the masking mandate that had gone into effect when students and teachers returned from Christmas break.

“Our Covid-19 Task Force has been closely monitoring the school system’s case numbers since the return from semester break,” the system notice said.  “We are pleased to report that there has not been a significant spike in positive cases at our schools as we had suspected given that the new variant is easier to transmit. Additionally, the number of positive cases in Fayette County have declined. This is more good news since what happens in the community impacts our schools.”

Not so with bus riders, though. Federal rules have extended the mandatory masking for students and bus drivers through mid-March. So kids have to mask up to ride a school bus, but can go bare-faced when they get out of the vehicles.

The system continues its policy of “highly recommending that all students, staff and visitors wear face coverings while inside a Fayette County Public Schools building. This is one of the best ways for us to continue in-person learning.”

The system notice continued:

• The Covid-19 Task Force will continue to monitor positivity rates for Covid-19, and if there is an increase in positive cases in our buildings, the face covering mandate may be reinstated for the entire school system or individual schools.

• The school system will continue to use the modified quarantine protocol for close contacts. Students can remain in school as long as they wear a face covering for 10 days, and are not having Covid-19 symptoms or test positive for Covid-19. Visit our Covid-19 FAQ for information on quarantines and close contacts. 

• Parents/guardians are asked to continue to monitor their children for any symptoms of Covid-19. Please do not send sick children to school. Contact your school nurse with questions and to seek guidance on when a sick child should return to school.

• Fayette County Public Schools will continue to take precautions to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 (distancing as much as possible, disinfecting high-touch surfaces, encouraging hand washing/sanitizing).

For more information about Piedmont Fayette, visit piedmont.org.