Mask Update at Area Schools

Washington Island’s school district has joined Gibraltar’s in issuing orders for all students and school employees to wear face coverings as a COVID-19 prevention protocol, at least for the beginning of the school year. 

Door County Medical Center’s Dr. Amy Fogarty, a pediatric adviser for Door County schools, said that as of Aug. 20, she had not heard of other districts reversing optional mask decisions.

Southern Door and Sturgeon Bay students returned to classes Wednesday, Sept. 1, and Sevastopol students will return after Labor Day. All three of those school districts have made masks optional.

“I’ve talked to a lot of parents, but as far as I know, there is no intent to change current policy,” Fogarty said Aug. 20.

Many school boards in Door County have, however, authorized their superintendents to make decisions between board meetings if conditions warrant action.

Fogarty strongly recommended universal masking for students and employees at all school districts. It’s the same guideline endorsed by Door County Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics. Since giving her advice, Fogarty said she has heard many supportive comments from community members and hospital employees.

“Parents have reached out asking what else we could do to try to get schools to reconsider,” Fogarty said.

As of August, some children are becoming sick and even requiring hospitalization because they have contracted COVID-19 at the same time as respiratory viruses.

“We’ve had a pretty big spike this last week in RSV – respiratory syncytial virus – which is a virus that seasonally goes through the pediatric population and causes a number of hospitalizations every year,” Fogarty said.

She said the virus typically makes the rounds in November through January, but more kids are vulnerable to it now because most were largely protected from all viruses from spring 2020 through spring 2021 by masks, hand washing and social distancing. She said children are typically exposed to RSV during infancy through age three.

“We have a lot more kids that are vulnerable to it,” Fogarty said.