DC Health released updated COVID-19 guidelines for schools Tuesday, recommending masks only when D.C. is experiencing high community transmission.
The latest recommendations from D.C.’s health agency put it in alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which at the end of February shifted away from recommending masks in K-12 settings in all regions except those experiencing high transmission.
DC Health’s guidance, Mayor Mayor Muriel Bowser said, lifts the city’s indoor mask mandate in academic settings and enables child care providers and local education agencies such as DCPS to set their own mask requirements. D.C.’s indoor mask mandate expired earlier this month, as health officials said caseloads have steadily declined, but DC Public Schools still kept its requirement in place.
In response to the new guidelines, DC Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said the school system will continue to require masks in the “immediate future.”
A spokesperson representing KIPP DC, the city’s largest charter school system, told WTOP that it is continuing its current COVID-19 protocols while school officials review the new guidance.
“We’ve always taken a conservative approach to COVID mitigation and will consult with our community before making any shifts to masking policies,” the spokesperson said.
Montgomery County, Maryland, lifted its indoor mask mandate in schools on Tuesday, leaving D.C. and Prince George’s County as the lone school systems still requiring masks in the region. A Virginia law banning mask mandates in schools passed the General Assembly and was signed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
“We will engage our union partners on next steps and continue to communicate with the DCPS community about any decisions that are made,” Ferebee said.
Last week, D.C. ended its outdoor mask requirement for students, staff and visitors while on school property.
Tuesday’s updated recommendations also come as D.C. was sued over its mask mandate for private schools. The Alliance for Defending Freedom argued that D.C. is violating the First Amendment by applying a mask mandate to religious schools while making masks optional in other non-secular settings.
In addition to updating its masking recommendations, DC Health also changed its isolation and quarantine guidelines for academic settings. Now, quarantine and isolation can end after five days with a negative COVID test. Previous guidance was quarantine and isolation could end after seven days with a negative test.
After seeing a spike in coronavirus cases among staff and students before winter break, District leaders say cases have dramatically decreased. The school system says about 46,000 school students and staff uploaded COVID-19 rapid test results before returning to class after the February break.
DC Health’s new coronavirus guidelines for academic settings are available online.
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