Wear masks in schools, says Ulster health commissioner

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KINGSTON – The Ulster County Department of Health has released guidelines for the safe reopening of schools during the upcoming school year. 

County Health Commissioner Dr. Carol Smith is recommending the return to five-day-a-week, full-time in-person learning and that all individuals (faculty, staff, students, and contractors) should be required to wear masks at all times inside school buildings regardless of vaccination status. The guidance also recommends safety precautions, including proper ventilation within school facilities and continued use of health screening for any individual entering the buildings. 

“It is absolutely critical that we fully, and safely reopen our schools this fall. Given the increased public health risk from the COVID-19 Delta variant, these guidelines are essential to ensure a safe educational experience for students, faculty, and staff,” County Executive Pat Ryan said. “Our Department of Health will continue to work closely with all Ulster County school districts to provide them the support needed to ensure a safe school environment, and we will continue to monitor the changing public health situation to ensure our entire community remains healthy and safe.” 

On July 2, 2021, the active case count was 14 cases; however, due to the Delta variant, cases have steadily climbed. As of August 14, the active cases in Ulster County have risen to 317. Out of 108,267 Ulster County residents who are fully vaccinated, 228 have contracted COVID-19 as of August 9, 2021. This equates to a .002 infection rate. Due to the small possibility that vaccinated individuals can transmit the virus, the CDC recommends that everyone, including those who are vaccinated, wear masks indoors in areas of high transmission, including Ulster County. 

On August 5, the State Health commissioner announced that his department would not be providing guidance to school districts related to reopening schools, leaving the planning up to individual districts, with county assistance.