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Baldwin County Schools end mask mandate

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Governor Brian Kemp has officially ended most of Georgia’s remaining coronavirus restrictions through an executive order.

On Friday, Kemp signed the 22-page order lifting restrictions for restaurants, bars, conventions, childcare centers and concert venues. The executive order went into effect Monday, May 31, 2021.

“As hospitalizations, cases, deaths, and percent-positive tests all continue to decline — and with vaccinations on the rise — Georgians deserve to fully return to normal,” said Kemp.

Along with a decline in percent-positive tests, the percentage of people getting tested has also gradually declined.

Although Georgia is trailing in vaccination rates, Kemp banned mandatory mask mandates for public schools.

“With safe and effective vaccines widely available, and the public well-aware of all COVID-19 mitigation measures, mandates from state and local governments are no longer needed,” he said.

Baldwin County School officials have not yet decided on mask mandates for the upcoming school year. “We are in the process of making that decision for summer school. No decision has been made for the fall. However, we will continue to follow the guidelines from the CDC, Department of Public Health, and the Georgia Department of Education,” said Dr. Norris Price, Superintendent of the Baldwin County School District.

Although the school board has not decided on students, BCSD employees will no longer have to wear face coverings. However, they are highly recommending them. Superintendent Price sent a mass email informing school administrators on Tuesday of the change.

“We are incredibly proud of the safety protocol that we had in place for over a year now,” said Wes Cummings, Chair of the Baldwin County School Board. “We will continue to do and make the decision in the best interest of every student and our administrators,” he said.

The next school board meeting is Tuesday, June 8, 2021, at 5:30 p.m.

Kemp acknowledges that some would have concerns about ditching their masks too early. When previewing the executive order to the Fox News Channel, he said, “Our teachers have had the ability to get vaccinated. It certainly doesn’t keep anyone from wearing a mask.”

Teachers may have the ability to get vaccinated, but not all students do. Pfizer is the only vaccine approved for children ages 12 and up. Moderna recently announced that according to their testing, their vaccine is safe for children ages 12 to 17. They plan to submit their findings to the Food and Drug Administration in early June.

Only 1.5% of Baldwin County students ages 15-19 are fully vaccinated. Not much information is available for the 12-14 age group. Students require permission from a parent or legal guardian to receive the vaccination.

Early last week, the CDC released a new study suggesting it is too early to end mask mandates in schools. The study ironically comes from Georgia. It shows that in 169 schools teaching grades K-5, infectious rates were 37% lower in schools that required teachers, staff, and students to wear masks.

Limited guidelines for nursing homes, longterm care facilities, and schools are still under effect.