Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) announced Tuesday that they won’t require students or faculty to wear masks for the upcoming school year.
MNPS said that these updated COVID protocols were “commonsense.” In the announcement, MNPS Director of Schools Adrienne Battle asserted that masks for the unvaccinated were strongly encouraged – especially for those with underlying health conditions or students under 12 years old. Otherwise, Battle said that MNPS will monitor case data in the event they need to adjust masking requirements.
“Wearing a mask is still our best bet to stay safe and prevent the chances of contracting or spreading COVID-19 indoors,” said Battle. “We highly recommend wearing one at the start of the year, and we will continue to monitor community transmission rates and cases in our schools to adjust our protocols if necessary, to keep everyone safe.”
MNPS spokesperson Sean Braisted told The Tennessee Star that the timing of the decision aligned with the fact that the last board meeting before the start of the fall semester occurred on Tuesday.
We also inquired about how current concerns over the delta variant causing an increased caseload could factor into MNPS’s decision-making. Braisted referred The Star to Battle’s statement in the MNPS press release.
The White House announced earlier this month that they would be deploying response teams to each state to address the delta variant. As of last week, Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) officials reported that they hadn’t heard from the White House about these response teams. TDH relayed that they are following CDC guidelines, and that the protocols to address this variant remain the same as their current public health response strategy.
TDH classifies the delta variant as one of concern.
According to TDH’s latest report, there are about 125 reported cases of the delta variant in the state. Another variant of concern, Gamma, has about 124 reported cases. The highest rate of positive tests occurred in the Shelby County area.
In May, MNPS opted to continue requiring masks for the summer session and indefinitely thereafter. Their announcement followed Metro Nashville Public Health Department’s (MPHD) decision to end the Metro area mask mandate.
Although masks will be optional, the district will continue to implement other preventative measures such as social distancing, contract tracing, testing, and limiting school visitors.
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