Montco updating school, public masking guidance to align with CDC

Elementary school students are pictured on a school bus

Elementary school students are pictured on a school bus in Wheeling, Ill., Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything. We’re all still trying to figure out how to live with it. What should we know about how you approach the world now? How has the pandemic changed your social life, your work life, your interactions with your neighbors?

Montgomery County is updating its school and public masking recommendations to align with the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, officials announced Monday.

The CDC on Friday unveiled its updated framework for determining COVID-19 mitigation efforts in relation to community transmission. The shift reflects a substantial drop in COVID-19 cases nationwide.

The new metrics take into consideration new hospitalizations and hospital capacity to help determine when certain areas should mask indoors.

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Under the CDC’s previous guidance, Montco — as nearly the entirety of the commonwealth — was seeing “high” levels of COVID-19 transmission. The county, under the CDC’s new guidance, is now seeing “medium” levels of COVID-19 transmission.

At this level, masks are no longer required in indoor public settings for people who are healthy and who are not caring for someone who is at higher risk for severe COVID-19.

Masking is similarly only recommended in schools that are in “high level” communities, though school districts may opt to implement their own masking guidelines.

Those who are at higher risk or caring for someone who is are encouraged to consult with a health care provider about “masking and appropriate mitigation strategies.”

Updated guidance documents from the Montgomery County Office of Public Health are expected later this week.

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Starting Monday, masking is optional for employees and visitors at Montgomery County facilities, including the Montgomery County Courthouse, regardless of vaccination status.

Montgomery County officials stressed that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 remains the best way to avoid serious illness and hospitalization, pointing to four community sites that offer the vaccine.

Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of Health Keara Klinepeter on Friday said the commonwealth will likely follow the CDC’s lead in updating its masking guidance. Philadelphia, meanwhile, has opted to keep its masking guidance in place.

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