HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Department of Health will no longer require universal masking in schools.
The new guidance takes effect August 1.
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Dr. Sarah Kemble said though masking will be optional, it is still strongly encouraged.
Public school students will be heading back to class in less than three weeks and for the first time in more than two years they’ll be able to see their friend’s faces.
In an effort to return to normal masks will not be required in schools. That’s according to the revised school guidance from the Department of Health State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble.
Parents and teachers have the option to cross masks off their school supply lists.
“When school begins next month, the Department of Health will strongly encourage indoor mask usage when COVID levels are high or medium,” Kemble said. “However, we will no longer recommend universal masking in most situations.”
“So if students and staff choose to wear a mask they absolutely can do so,” said Heidi Armstrong the Deputy Superintendent of the Department of Education.
Kemble said they are strongly suggesting people mask-up since cases are currently considered high by the CDC, but it’s not required.
Logan Okita, the Hawaii State Teachers Association Vice President, said she’s happy they finally got some guidance.
“I’m glad that we were given advance notice,” Okita said. “It’s not the night before students return to campus. So teachers and students and school staff and families are able to process this information and make decisions and have those conversations at home.”
Kyle Foyle, a parent with two young children said he is ecstatic over the news.
“I can’t explain how happy I am? Over a simple thing, but yes, very, very happy,” Foyle said. “I think this is a great first step, thank you to DOE for finally stepping up and taking our children’s health and our mental health first. So I’m just happy for every grade from kindergarten up to high school.”
Quarantine guidelines are also changing.
“At this time, quarantine is not required when there has been a potential exposure. So that is a change in the guidance,” Armstrong explained.
“That’s for in-school exposure,” Kemble clarified. “So household exposures would still be recommended to quarantine for five days and return and mask for six to 10 days.”
According to Kemble, the guidelines are based on the current situation. If things get worse, they may revise them.
“But we do think this is the best opportunity we’ve had yet to move towards this new normal,” she said.
She is also urging families to get vaccinated.
“It’s a very good public health tool,” said Kemble. “So we strongly recommend that families consider getting all of their vaccines up to date for COVID-19.”
Armstrong said they will continue to offer distance learning for those who want it and parents should contact their school for more information.
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If the school or complex area does not offer it, Armstrong said parents can apply for the state sponsored distance learning program.