McDowell County Schools mask decisions will be made weekly. 14-day positivity rate is the guide

McDowell County Schools mask decisions will be made weekly. 14-day positivity rate is the guide

Members of the McDowell County Board of Education went back and forth on Monday when it came to voting on the monthly mask mandate for students and staff in schools.

The McDowell County Board of Education is tasked with voting on a COVID-19 mask mandate each month.

“One of my quandaries this whole year has been trying to figure out how to move fluidly from face coverings being required to optional and then back again in a responsive manner should circumstances dictate,” Superintendent Mark Garrett said.

After a long discussion, the board unanimously approved the recommendation by Garrett to make an announcement on mask policies each Friday for the following week.

The weekly decision will be based on the 14-day rolling average of community spread within McDowell County and information provided by McDowell County Emergency Services.

“The plan is to use the 14-day positivity rate to determine whether face coverings will be optional or required. I will review the data on Fridays and then make the announcement for the following week. If the 14-day positivity rate is 5% or lower, face coverings will be optional. If the 14-day positivity rate is above 5%, then face coverings will be required. At present, the 14-day positivity rate is sitting at 4.2%. If this rate holds, then face coverings will be optional for the week of November 12,” Garrett said.

On Friday, Garrett will take a look at the McDowell County Emergency Management Dashboard as he has done each day since the pandemic started, including meeting weekly with the Health Department and Emergency Services, and make a decision for the schools based on the COVID-19 numbers reported by the county.

“I don’t make this recommendation lightly and I have tried to figure out what we need to do if we have to go back and forth,” he said. “It is important to note that the only change to the district’s COVID protocols with this latest action will be the face covering requirement in our facilities. All other precautions remain in place. Also, face coverings will remain in place for our buses due to federal transportation requirements.”