The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, March 31, 2021 1:00 am

NACS won't back off using masks in schools

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Doctors still say wearing masks can stop the spread of the coronavirus, despite a throng of parents calling on Northwest Allen County Schools to drop its mandate.

Superintendent Chris Himsel remained steadfast to the mitigation strategy during Monday's school board meeting, and his district's largest neighbor is preparing a communication strategy reiterating the need to wear masks.

Fort Wayne Community Schools' efforts include a video message from Superintendent Mark Daniel and signs at athletics facilities reminding spring sports fans to mask up even when outdoors, district spokeswoman Krista Stockman said.

“The science is very clear that masks work,” Stockman said Tuesday.

Although the statewide mask mandate lifts April 6, the requirement will stay in effect for K-12 schools through June 30.

Himsel and most school board members wore facial coverings Monday as a group of unmasked parents pushed for an end to the mitigation strategy, unconcerned about their children contracting the coronavirus.

NACS has sought advice from pediatric, occupational and public health experts throughout the pandemic.

One of the physicians attended the meeting and directed The Journal Gazette to reports available on the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention website about the effectiveness of mitigation measures in schools.

Each study, including one evaluating elementary schools in Utah's Salt Lake County, described data supporting the use of masks.

“These findings add to evidence that in-person elementary schools can be opened safely with minimal in-school transmission when critical prevention strategies including mask use are implemented, even though maintaining (at least 6 feet) between students' seats might not be possible,” researchers wrote.

FWCS is partnering with Meijer to provide the Pfizer vaccine to employees and students 16 or older after spring break, Stockman said. Consent forms are due Thursday.

Meanwhile, NACS board President Kent Somers wrongly characterized the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines as “gene therapy” on Monday – a claim disputed by the CDC.

The agency offers this information about messenger RNA vaccines, also called mRNA vaccines, in a section intended for health care professionals and vaccine providers: “mRNA from the vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell and does not affect or interact with a person's DNA.”

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