Archdiocese: Catholic school students must be masked if not vaccinated

Florida Keys News | By David Goodhue | August 7, 2021

Students attending Catholic schools in Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties will have to wear masks when they return to the classroom this month unless they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the Archdiocese of Miami announced Friday.

The decision comes as Gov. Ron DeSantis and individual public school districts battle over mask mandates. The governor signed an executive order last week prohibiting school districts from mandating masks for students and teachers, and he has threatened to withhold state funds from any district that violates that policy.

In a letter sent to Catholic school parents Friday, Archbishop Thomas Wenski said he is disappointed that a matter of public health has become politicized, but he has opted to go with the recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics in his decision.

“Vaccinations, masks, social distancing, etc., of course, are not 100% effective, but not to attempt to mitigate risks to parishioners and school families would be a failure of pastoral oversight on my part,” Wenski wrote.

The first day of class is Wednesday, Aug. 18, said Mary Ross Agosta, an archdiocese spokeswoman.

The archdiocese’s policy, which Wenski said will be reviewed weekly, requires masks to be worn indoors by any student age 2 and older who is not fully vaccinated. The exception is when these children are eating, playing sports “or other vigorous activities,” he said.

Students who are fully vaccinated have the option of wearing masks indoors.

Masks are optional for every student when they are outdoors, regardless of vaccination status, according to the archdiocese. But students must maintain social distancing of 3 feet.

To participate in athletics, students who are not fully vaccinated must be tested weekly. They can opt out of the testing if they document they are fully vaccinated, or document they are within the 90-day period of recovering from COVID when some health experts say they have natural immunity to the coronavirus.

The archdiocese also has new rules regarding students who plan to travel during the school year.

If traveling within the United States, those who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine when they return. Those who are not fully vaccinated can return to school after quarantining for seven days and providing negative test results for the virus to the school.

Unvaccinated students can return to school after 10 days of quarantining without taking a COVID test, according to the archdiocese’s talking points.

The Archdiocese of Miami has 57 schools — including elementary, middle and high school — in Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe, Ross Agosta said.

There are 30,836 pupils in its schools, according to the latest census by the archdiocese, she said.

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