Philly schools keep masks optional, even as CDC says city has high COVID-19 transmission rate

Masks were mandatory for students and staff during the first two weeks of class
A girl about to attend school, wearing a face mask
Photo credit Ridofranz/Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The CDC lists Philadelphia's COVID-19 transmission rate as high, but the School District of Philadelphia said masks will still become optional on Monday.

Masks were mandatory for students and staff during the first two weeks of class in Philadelphia.

"We're sticking with the plan of going mask-optional after the first 10 days of the school year," said School System Medical Officer Dr. Kendra McDow.

Dr. McDow said the move to optional masking comes even though the CDC Thursday classified the city's community transmission rate as high.

The CDC says that when community transmission is high, it recommends people wear a high-quality mask or respirator.

It also says that people at high-risk of becoming very sick should avoid non-essential indoor activities.

Those having household or social contact with someone who is high-risk should self-test to check on infection before having contact, and should wear a high-quality mask when indoors with that person, according to the CDC.

"We evaluated where we currently were, and we are going to continue to follow the data to see where we are in the next two weeks to see if masking will be needed and we're still seeing our cases increase," Dr. McDow told KYW Newsradio.

"What we're doing is looking at the community level over a two-week time period to see if we continue to rise — so we aren't putting masks on, taking them off, putting them on, taking them off."

Students and staff need to be ready to adapt, McDow stressed.

"We have seen increases in cases in our colder months. So that is something that we definitely need to prepared for and be prepared to put the masks back on to decrease in-school transmission," she said.

Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware and Chester counties in Pennsylvania and Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties in New Jersey all have medium COVID-19 transmission rates, according to the CDC.

McDow said masking will be a personal decision in schools on Monday, but she said the district will continue to strongly encourage everyone to mask up.

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