By Guy Page
Masks will be required in Vermont public schools until Jan. 18 regardless of whether the school has reached 80% vaccination, Agency of Education Secretary Dan French said Tuesday at Gov. Phil Scott’s press briefing.
When school opened in August, mandatory masking was expected to last just a few weeks. Schools that reached 80% eligible student vaccination would then allow unmasking of vaccinated students. However, high case counts have led officials to postpone the date.
The impending Emergency Use Authorization approval of a vaccine for children five and over also prompted today’s decision. “We want to make good progress with vaccinating children in the coming months,” French said. Also, “We want to get through the holiday period. … We think it’s prudent to delay our masking recommendations until after the holidays, period.”
Under guidelines to be released Tuesday afternoon, players of school-based winter sports will need to be vaccinated. (Unvaccinated players may participate in practices as antigen testing becomes available.) Spectators, coaches and officials must mask. Some sports will require player masking, others will not. Sports that require upside-down physical inversion — wrestling, gymnastics, dance — won’t require masks because of the danger of masks slipping over the athlete’s eyes.
Health Commissioner Mark Levine said his department is ramping up for mass vaccination of children.
“We’re actively planning clinics and working with pediatricians while we wait for the authorization of the vaccine,” Levine said. Vaccination will reduce interruptions in school learning and reduce transmission to adults, he said.
Guy Page is publisher of the Vermont Daily Chronicle. Reprinted with permission.