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Anne Arundel County schools to require masks again starting Monday

Students, teachers, staff and visitors will need to wear masks again inside Anne Arundel County Public School buildings starting Monday, Superintendent George Arlotto has announced.

The new COVID-19 procedures were made in consultation with county Health Officer Nilesh Kalyanaraman, Arlotto said in a video announcement.

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This comes a week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended all people in schools wear masks regardless of age and vaccination status to prevent the spread of the delta variant.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Anne Arundel trended down between mid-April and mid-July, but has been climbing again in recent weeks. The case rate per 100,000 people, averaged over seven days, was 9.9 in Anne Arundel and 9.2 statewide on Wednesday.

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Anne Arundel County and Annapolis city said Monday that employees and others who enter county and city buildings will be required to wear masks inside.

And on Thursday, Gov. Larry Hogan said Maryland will require state employees at a number of congregate facilities to get COVID-19 vaccinations, or submit to regular testing and mask-wearing restrictions starting Sept. 1

Arlotto said the health department suggested requiring masks for all people in school buildings this fall, regardless of vaccination status, with exceptions for eating, chorus, theater and band.

“Our goal is to keep our buildings open from Sept. 8 to June 21, the scheduled last day of classes for students,” Arlotto said.

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So far this summer older students and teachers who were vaccinated didn’t have to wear a mask inside. Students too young to be vaccinated, and those working with them, were required to wear them.

Arlotto said starting Aug. 9 anyone in any Anne Arundel County school building will need to wear a mask if they are around others, regardless of age and vaccination status.

Students will learn in-person this fall unless they are enrolled in the system’s virtual academy, Arlotto said. Masks will not be required outdoors.

Arlotto said the system is developing a voluntary testing program for students aimed at keeping track of the level of disease in individual schools. The system will continue to schedule vaccine clinics, Arlotto said.

Over the next week, clinics are scheduled at middle schools for incoming seventh graders. The COVID-19 vaccine is not required to attend school, but vaccines for Tdap and meningitis are. Students can get all three of those vaccines at the clinics, which are listed at aacps.com/vaccines.

Other major school systems surrounding Anne Arundel have already announced their fall plans. The state’s largest school districts including Baltimore County, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County have said masks will be required inside this fall regardless of vaccination status.

Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County President Russell Leone said teachers are focused on safely welcoming students back to the classroom. Leone is happy to hear that masks will be required, a move that will make operations more consistent.

“Teachers are excited to be with their full roster of kids,” Leone said.

He said he hopes federal funding can be used to improve air conditioning and heating in schools, as air flow is a factor in spread of the respiratory illness.

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