From The Tribune staff reports
LEEDS — Citing improvements in the positive rate of COVID-19 infections, Leeds City Schools Superintendent John Moore announced in an email to parents that masks will become optional for students on Thursday, September 30.
“The following changes are made to the Leeds City Schools’ masking policy, effective Wednesday, September 29, 2021,” Moore wrote. “ When an individual school’s seven-day percentage of student positive cases reaches 1 percent or below OR when our overall level of community transmission is Moderate (Yellow) or Low (Blue), as determined by the Alabama Department of Public Health, then face coverings will become optional.”
Community transmission rates in Jefferson and St. Clair counties continue to be high, according to the Alabama Department of Pubilc Health’s COVID-19 dashboard.
“We will use our weekly student positive case percentage that is released every Wednesday, and we will require a percentage below or above 1 percent for two consecutive weeks before we will change our requirements between face coverings mandated (over 1 percent) or face coverings optional (at or below 1 percent).”
Then Moore broke the news that the school masking policy will change.
“Beginning Thursday, September 30, masking will become optional at school, given that no school has a 1 percent or greater positive rate over the past two weeks,” Moore stated.
Moore cited that there are currently only six positive cases of COVID-19 reported in the school system.
On school transportation, the masking policy will remain unchanged, Moore stated.
“Facial coverings will remain mandatory for passengers and drivers on school buses. The Alabama Department of Public Health has interpreted the federal order regarding facial covering requirements on all forms of public transportation to include public school buses. This requirement supersedes the facial covering policy of the schools.”
Going to optional masking also means that Leeds City Schools will now have to implement more stringent contact tracing.
“When face coverings become optional, our close contact procedures will have to change slightly,” Moore stated. “Currently, with all students wearing a face covering, we are only required to identify people who are within 3 feet of the positive person for more than 15 minutes. If a person is not wearing a face covering, then will have to expand that circle to 6 feet around the positive person. We will continue to notify parents of close contacts, ask parents to monitor their children for symptoms, and ask them to make their own decision about isolation from school as long as the child is not exhibiting symptoms.”
Moore noted that the school’s masking policy is fluid and could change depending on circumstance.
Alabama’s COVID-19 numbers remain alarming. Some 14,155 Alabamians have died from COVID or COVID-related symptoms. In 2020, 7,185 people in the state died from the virus. So far in 2021, 6,970 have died from the virus. With three months left in 2021, Alabama will almost certainly pass its total deaths from 2020.