As of Monday, April 4, La Joya ISD removed its mask mandate. Instead, they “highly recommend” the use of face coverings for all students, employees, and visitors in high traffic areas such as hallways or school buses.
Since then, many students have reported seeing their peers and teachers stop wearing their masks, as well as abandoning different safety precautions La Joya ISD previously suggested, such as removing sneeze guards from students’ desks. The removal of the mandate makes no sense because evidence has shown that masks prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In September of 2021, the Center for Disease Control(CDC) released numerous studies showing the importance of masking in schools. Studies, such as one from Arizona, show how school districts that did not implement universal masking policies were at higher risk of a COVID-19 outbreak. The report said that two of the state’s most populous counties were 3.5 times more likely for an outbreak. The CDC would also say that “facemasks when used as part of the larger strategy can reduce the spread of COVID-19 and prevent outbreaks in schools.” As of today, the CDC continues to uphold this recommendation.
The second study, taken between July 1 and September 4, 2021, showed that pediatric COVID cases in counties with mask mandates had a rate of 16.32 cases per 100,000/day compared to counties without mandates with a rate of 34.85 cases per 100,000/day. This report shows how much of an impact masking policy can have on communities.
Early in the year, Texas school districts struggled to stay open because many teachers and bus drivers were calling in sick. Fort Worths Northwest ISD saw a nearly 900% case increase during this time.[need a warrant between previous and next] Northwest ISD does not have a masking mandate but does highly encourage students, employees, and visitors to wear a mask and socially distance when on district policy. The district has a student population of about 25,264.
The Hidalgo County Health and Human Service Department issued a press release on October 14, 2021, against public businesses/schools requiring face masks although, a school governing body shall vote to opt-out of the order. During this time, COVID cases were low, most of the time hardly reaching tripe digits but by the new year, cases would go up to over a thousand cases daily. On January 14, 2022, there were 11,157 new cases as opposed to the previous high of 1,329 cases on November 24, 2020. That is just over eight times as high.
Perhaps the only change that has been made is that people have stopped wearing their masks, both at school, at work, and even at the grocery store. These extreme increases in cases are something that we know how to prevent; possible school closures and outbreaks can be prevented.