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With thousands of students in quarantine, Union County (N.C.) board says no to mask mandates

Sept. 8, 2021
The board voted 5-4 against a mask mandate while 5,400 students and staff were reported to be in quarantine because of exposure to Covid-19.

Despite having thousands of students and staff in quarantine because of Covid-19, the Union County (N.C.) school board has decided in a 5-4 vote not to impose a mask mandate.

The Charlotte Observer reports that masks will remain optional in the 41,000-student district despite requests from the superintendent, county health director and parents who believe masks will thwart the growing numbers of students who have Covid-19 or are having to quarantine because of possible exposure at school.

“The one strategy we have left that ensures more of our students remain in school is a mask mandate,” Union County School Superintendent Andrew Houlihan told the board Tuesday night. “I am concerned (with) the number of kids in quarantine."

Covid-19 cases more than doubled last week in Union County Public Schools, according to district data. The number of positive cases in the district stood at 367 last week, compared with 176 the week before. The number of students and staff quarantined last week rose to 5,410, up from nearly 2,000 the previous week,

Union County remains one of the few districts in North Carolina to not require masking. As of Sept. 8, all but three of the state’s 115 school systems have opted for mask mandates. In the past month, in response to the surge in Covid-19 cases from the delta variant, 51 districts reversed their decision to go mask optional.

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