Raleigh, N.C. — Schools no longer need to require masks for vaccinated individuals if coronavirus spread in their communities is low enough, North Carolina health officials wrote in a guidance document published this week.
Only two counties currently meet the threshold of “moderate” or “low” spread – Hyde County on the coast and Cherokee County in the mountains – as the rest of the state’s counties continue to have “high” or “substantial” transmission rates.
The document updated by DHHS is dated Oct. 25, but the agency hasn’t updated its StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit, which is dated Oct. 5 and still recommends for universal masking in all schools.
Before the update, schools could make masks optional, but the large majority of schools chose not to while cases rose because of virus’ delta variant. Board members have also noted potentially high numbers of quarantines if people did not wear masks. Unvaccinated people are exempt from quarantines if they were exposed while wearing a mask by a person who was also wearing a mask.
“Given that our student population is largely not yet vaccinated, face coverings remain a critical tool for protecting children and keeping them safely in the classroom,” the DHHS document reads. “NCDHHS recommends that schools base their mask requirements on levels of community transmission, as defined by the CDC.”