CSD removes mask mandates amid new CDC recommendations


Aiden Payne and Averill Payne

On Feb. 27, City Schools of Decatur (CSD) updated their COVID-19 mask policy to reflect new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. On Tuesday, March 1st, CSD will no longer mandate mask usage among students and staff. Instead, students will be “strongly recommended” to wear face coverings while in school, according to CSD superintendent Maggie Fehrman.

Starting March 1st, students and staff will not have any administrative consequences for choosing not to wear a mask, and “bullying or harassment will not be tolerated,” Fehrman said in an email for the CSD Mitigation Update.

The decision to change the district-wide masking policy comes two days after the CDC updated their “COVID-19 Community Level” metrics. These metrics are used to categorize regions across the country as “high-risk,” “substantial-risk,” “medium-risk,” and “low-risk.” Under previous recommendations, the CDC had organized said classifications according to the number of positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in that jurisdiction.

As of Feb. 26, Dekalb County averaged 18 daily cases per 100,000 people, placing the county into the “substantial-risk” category at the time, according to The New York Times.

Under the new CDC guidelines, these categories are now determined by each county’s COVID-19-attributed hospitalizations per 100,000 people, and by the area’s “hospital capacity metrics,” according to the CDC. From February 11th through February 17th, Dekalb County had an average COVID-19 hospitalization rate of 71.6 patients per 100,000 people, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

This means that as per the newly-implemented CDC guidelines, Dekalb County now falls into the “low-risk” category of COVID-19 transmission.

Prevention steps recommended for low-risk areas, such as Dekalb County, are to “stay up-to-date with vaccines” and to “maintain improved ventilation in public indoor spaces,” as stated by the CDC. This guidance does not include recommendations for mask-wearing.

“I have relied on CDC guidance as the standard to follow, and I will continue to do so at this time for all CSD facilities,” Fehrman said.

As for now, CSD will continue other mitigation strategies like weekly testing and contact tracing already in place in the district. Schools will also continue to provide masks for students who want them throughout the school day.