The Connecticut Department of Public Health released new guidance for schools about the use of face masks.
DPH officials said boards of education, district administrators and other local decision-makers should consider several factors before deciding whether or not masks should be required indoors.
The department provided questions for schools to consider when thinking about COVID-19 policy changes, including mask mandates or transitioning to mask-optional policies.
Below is a list of the suggested questions:
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- What does the available data indicate regarding the community and district prevalence and transmission of COVID-19?
- What is the risk tolerance for the possibility of increasing case numbers and necessary quarantine and isolation in your students and staff?
- What is the current COVID-19 vaccination status of students and staff within individual schools and across the district, and what is the current COVID-19 vaccine coverage for the surrounding community?
- What additional planning is necessary to address the needs of students and staff who may be at greater risk for adverse health outcomes?
- What additional guidance is necessary to ensure support for students and staff who may wish to continue mask wearing?
- What processes need to be in place for continuous risk assessment and prompt
decision-making regarding COVID-19 policies and mitigation strategies (including mask use) going forward?
- What advanced contingency planning needs to occur to prepare for potential surges and/or outbreaks?
DPH officials stressed that people who are school-aged, in generally good health and up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccines are at lower risk for developing severe outcomes if they become infected.
"Prior to making any significant changes to the mitigation strategies in schools (including universal mask use), the DPH and the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) encourage school districts to consider and discuss the unique complexities of school environments, the environmental conditions inside their school buildings, the health of their school populations and the conditions in their immediate and surrounding communities," the guidance reads.
Health officials continue to recommend that all eligible students and staff get vaccinated against COVID-19, including booster shots.
School officials are also being advised to support students and staff who wish to continue wearing masks, even when school policies don't require them.
The statewide mask mandate for schools and childcare centers is set to expire at the end of the month.
The DPH and the Department of Education said they're in the process of providing public health guidance for the state's schools as COVID-19 levels decrease in the state.