JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — While most of the school systems in Eastern North Carolina have decided to make masks mandatory for students and staff, that won’t be the case in Onslow County.
Onslow County Schools voted on Aug. 10 to make masks optional for the 2021-2022 school year. Just this week, several school systems decided to change their mask mandate requirement from optional to required for all students and staff, including nearby Carteret County.
This week, 9OYS reported about the increase of COVID cases in Onslow County, and health officials say the numbers are still just as bad as of Thursday.
“For us, this is as bad as it ever was in January and, you know, is particularly bad right now,” said Onslow County Public Health Director Kristen Richmond-Hoover.
The Health Department has been seeing record-breaking numbers of cases this week and last week.
Onslow County health officials say there are over 2,000 active cases in the county as of Thursday. They add this coronavirus surge is something the whole state of North Carolina is seeing right now.
“You know, our healthcare, infrastructure and our health care facilities are feeling the pain that goes along with this increasing number of cases,” said Richmond-Hoover.
Onslow County Schools go back into session next week. They say as of right now, masks are still optional for students and staff. In their protocols, masks are required on school buses and they will be doing everything they can to provide social distancing for the students. The school system will also promote hand hygiene and the cleaning of high-traffic areas.
Chief Communications Officer for Onslow County Schools Brent Anderson said just because masks aren’t mandatory doesn’t mean children can’t wear them.
“I think one of the first things to understand with that is just making sure everybody understands that the face covers are optional and Onslow County, it doesn’t mean the students cannot wear them, it means that it’s up to the family to make the decision if they want to wear face cover or not,” said Anderson.
Anderson added prior to the school board making this decision, they received a lot of feedback from the community about this topic.
“Overwhelmingly, the community was in favor of an optional mask policy for the school,” said Anderson.
Richmond-Hoover said the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. She added they will have back-to-school immunization clinics the last two Monday evenings in August and September.
“To try to get our children vaccinated, we will also be doing COVID vaccines during that time for school-aged children or for the general public as well,” said Richmond-Hoover.