Chicago Elementary School brings back mask requirement due to COVID breakout – NBC Chicago
After about 40 cases of COVID-19 were detected at an elementary school in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood, officials brought back a mask requirement for students and staff.
“We had about 40 cases in the month and we actually did contact tracing and everything was [from] outside events,” Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinz said at a press conference Tuesday. “In some cases, some of these students were together and so … the good news is that the quarantine was small.
According to Martinz, 15 students are currently in quarantine at Coonley Elementary School due to the coronavirus outbreak. Martinez noted that the school is one of the largest in CPS with almost 90% of students vaccinated.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the health department continues to track COVID outbreaks and clusters “of any kind,” adding that other non-CPS schools have also seen an increase in cases.
“Sometimes it spreads outside, but when we see multiple, multiple cases in one setting, that’s the time, like I said, the masks work right away,” Arwady said.
If COVID cases continue to rise, could a mask mandate return to CPS schools?
Martinez explained that CPS officials are working with CDPH to study levels of transmissibility across the city. If Chicago were to move to a higher risk level again, Martinez and Arwady said the CPS would consider reinstating the district-wide mask mandate.
“Any setting is welcome to be more conservative than the requirement, but that factor is a combination of case rate, hospitalization rate, and, you know, those serious outcomes,” Arwady said.
The CPS lifted its mask mandate last week, beginning a new mask-optional policy for students and staff at city schools.
Parents, students and employees have the choice of whether or not to wear a mask on school property and in other educational settings, although the district has said it will continue to encourage their use.
“The CPS was one of the first to call for universal masking in schools, and we would not move to a mask-optional model unless the data and our public health experts indicate it is safe for our school communities,” Martinez said in a statement. “We will support our staff and students as we enter this new phase of the pandemic and continue to move forward together.”
Citing vaccination rates and new CDC guidelines for change, the district said masks will continue to be encouraged although they are optional.
“Adults in our school communities will set the tone during this transition,” education director Bogdana Chkoumbova said in a statement. “I am confident that we will continue to support and respect each other throughout this next phase of the pandemic. Family and community situations can change and dictate whether a student or staff member wears a mask and we all need to make sure everyone feels welcome to continue the practice that makes them feel safest and most comfortable. ‘easy.
The CPS mask mandate was part of a deal reached between city officials and the Chicago Teachers Union earlier this year. The union called the district’s decision to waive the requirement a “clear violation” of the duo’s agreement.
“Our union will immediately file an unfair labor practice (ULP) charge against the district in response, and request that the CPS negotiate this decision – a decision that affects nearly 400,000 students, educators and school staff in Chicago,” the union said in a Monday release.
Illinois ended its requirement for face masks in schools in late February, as Governor JB Pritzker announced after the Illinois Supreme Court rejected his appeal of a restraining order in a lawsuit challenging the mask mandate.
In a statement, Pritzker explained that Illinois will move forward to remove its school mask mandate after the Centers for Disease Control updated guidelines to recommend masks only in areas of high COVID transmission.
Last month, Illinois Governor and Attorney General Kwame Raoul said the state would ask the Illinois Supreme Court to review an appeals court ruling making masks optional in schools. , noting that the decision did not “resolve important legal issues”.