School mask order sets uniform standards


By Patsy Nicosia

Because it’s so easy to let the COVID genie out of the bottle, the Schoharie County Health Department has put together an order that lays out the requirements for masks in local schools and on busses.
So far, there have been no COVID cases in local public schools, but in the event that does happen, Public Health Director Amy Gildemeister said, the mask order is an important way to limit exposure—and maybe avoid having to close down schools or individual classrooms.
“It’s a way to set consistent expectations throughout the county,” Dr. Gildemeister said, and guidance school superintendents had asked for.
“Everything we do is about mitigating risk and controlling that spread. It’s easy to want to relax the standards, but kids really do need to wear masks all the time. This gives a clear understanding of what the expectations are across the board.”
Effective immediately, the mask order requires anyone over the age of two and able to medically tolerate a face-covering be required to wear one when in school or on a bus, “at all times except for meals, and other than for designated mask breaks unless otherwise medically inadvisable as certified by a student’s or employee’s or visitor’s physician.”
Masks are required in addition to things like social distancing, physical barriers, ventilation controls and frequent cleaning protocols.
Schools are also required to develop “mask breaks” of no more than five minutes “at specified and limited times during the day.”
If a physical education teacher determines wearing a mask may be dangerous to a student during vigorous physical exertion, the mask can be removed if a 12-foot separation can be maintained between students in a place of adequate ventilation.
For “medically fragile individuals with special needs” or “underlying medical conditions” that mean they’re unable to wear a mask, a plan outlining how to protect them from contracting or transmitting COVID must be on file.