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Philadelphia school district mandates masks for first 10 days of school year, pre-k must mask up all year

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The School District of Philadelphia is mandating that students and staff wear masks for the first 10 days of the school year, and is requiring that pre-kindergarten attendees mask-up all year.

Officials from the school district and city made the announcement in a letter to parents on Friday, stating that after the first 10 days of the school year, from Aug. 29 through Sept. 9, most schools will go mask-optional.

The letter states that when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 community transmission level is high, students and staff will be required to wear masks in schools. When the level is medium, masking is “strongly recommended.”

Students and staff at the district’s Pre-K Head Start program, the district’s income-driven pre-kindergarten program for ages 3-5, will be required to wear a mask for the entire 2022-2023 school year, according to the announcement.

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Students play outside at recess as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions are lifted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
(Reuters/Hannah Beier)

“For the first 10 days of the new school year – from August 29 through September 9 – all students and staff will be required to wear masks while in school, regardless of the COVID-19 Community Level,” the announcement reads. “Students and staff at PreK Head Start programs are still required to wear masks at all times, regardless of the Community Level.”

There are also instances when an isolated mask requirement might be implemented, such as a school-wide or classroom COVID-19 outbreaks, or when returning from extended breaks and holidays. 

The district is also implementing a “mask to stay” program, stating that students and staff who have been exposed to COVID-19 can stay in school but must wear a mask for 10 days.

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Students return to school as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions are lifted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Students return to school as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions are lifted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
(Reuters/Hannah Beier)

If a student tests positive for COVID-19, they are required to isolate at home for at least five days, but can return to school afterward if they’re symptom-free “but must wear a high-quality (N95 or KN95) mask for an additional 5 days and must eat in a designated area,” the announcement reads.

Dr. Marc Siegel, Fox News medical analyst and professor of medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center, said there’s “no public health value” in making students and staff mask-up for the first 10 days of the school year.

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A student reflects her lunch bag on a wall in a hallway as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions are lifted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

A student reflects her lunch bag on a wall in a hallway as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions are lifted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
(Reuters/Hannah Beier)

“The whole thing is, mandates aren’t working at all. So, you know, they just obscure the question about whether there’s any public health value in actually doing any of this. I mean, I think if you’re at a high risk, there is. So if I was in an area with a lot of spread, and I was at high risk, I might choose to wear a mask indoors. But there’s no evidence that these mandates doing anything.

Siegel added that “mandates for ten days are like a sign of hypocrisy.”

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