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Baltimore-area Catholic schools won’t require COVID vaccines, will base masking requirements on case counts

The Archdiocese of Baltimore will not require COVID-19 vaccinations for Catholic schools this fall and told parents this week that masking requirements for each school will depend on local case counts.

Catholic school leaders plan to evaluate individual school trends and case counts in the jurisdictions where schools are located on a weekly basis. If the 7-day average for new daily cases per 100,000 residents in a jurisdiction climbs to 7.1 or higher, Catholic schools in that area will require masks for all adults and students.

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Families can choose whether to mask if the rate is lower than 7.1. If a jurisdiction mandates masks inside all buildings, then Catholic schools will comply with those orders, officials said.

Although the Archdiocese does not plan to mandate COVID vaccines, Catholic leaders are emphasizing personal responsibility and recommending that people get immunized.

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The Archdiocese decision comes a few days after the Maryland Department of Education strongly recommended multiple COVID-19 mitigation strategies for schools — but stopped short of mandating vaccinations and mask-wearing before students return to school later this month.

In the absence of federal or state mandates, public and private school administrators across the state are making high-profile decisions on universal masking and vaccinations at a time when some fear the beginning of the school year could bring its own spike of cases, particularly with the aggressive delta variant of the virus now prevalent.

Catholic schools will continue to follow social distancing at 3 feet where possible in the classroom and will frequently sanitize facilities. Officials said that screening and surveillance of employees and students will take place “where possible” and that standard contact tracing protocols will be in place.

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