Following a troubling national trend, some school districts in the Lehigh Valley and surrounding area have decided not to require mandatory masking for children when school resumes in the fall. As a result, many parents, despite being eager for a return to in-person learning, face the nerve-wracking dilemma of sending their children to schools that could prove unsafe.
Infections, hospitalizations, and deaths due to the COVID-19 Delta variant are rising nationally, with local data pointing in a similar direction. In response, public health experts now recommend universal masking in schools.
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that “All students older than 2 years and all school staff should wear face masks at school (unless medical or developmental conditions prohibit use).” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls for “universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.”
Yet, like a handful of districts, the Nazareth Area School District has recently approved a safety plan out of step with these health recommendations. Nazareth has no indoor masking requirement for students and school personnel, whether vaccinated or not.
Nazareth’s plan includes no COVID-19 surveillance testing, and the Health and Safety Plan Review Team does not name a single medical doctor among its 38 members. Whether St. Luke’s University Health Network, Nazareth’s health partner, regards the plan as safe remains unclear.
The solution is simple. School boards should heed public health experts’ guidance and require universal masking, a proven strategy to reduce COVID-19 infection and community spread.
Lower Nazareth Township