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Northampton Board of Health meets over school mask mandate

A mask mandate in the schools has been in place since May 10th and was set to be re-evaluated on May 20th, which was Friday.
Published: May. 25, 2022 at 7:08 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - A board of health meeting currently underway in Northampton to discuss the city’s latest COVID-19 data. One hot topic was brought up – the mask mandate currently in place in the city’s public schools.

A mask mandate in the schools has been in place since May 10th and was set to be re-evaluated on May 20th, which was Friday. This was due to what officials called a significant rise in COVID transmission in schools.

School officials decided to wait until the board of health meeting to make a decision. As of Friday, there were 18 positive cases from pool testing in Northampton schools, but the meeting started with the board clarifying that masking in schools will not be up for a vote at this meeting.

Nevertheless, several concerned parents spoke out during public comment against the school’s mask mandate.

“I think that it’s time for the health committee to follow science here,” said parent Gregg Schwartz. “Our 3-year-old son is at the town’s Jewish pre-school and he’s required to wear a KN95 mask, even outdoors on hot summer days, days like we just had this weekend. The parents feel immense sadness, and without getting into the cognitive and developmental delays on this, they’re being robbed of their experience of laughing and smiling. My son also has asthma.”

Last week, concerned parents threatened to file legal action against the schools’ mandate, saying the district exceeded its authority.

The board broke down the city’s latest COVID-19 data. They said that over the last week, there have been 160 new reported cases and the fourteen-day positivity rate stands at 4.4%, which they said is down from the previous seven days.

The board of health was set to discuss a “mask advisory and communication plan” as well as “recommendations for pharmacies and grocery stores to have mask-only hours.”