Philly schools say cloth masks no longer enough for in-person classes

Tara Matise teaches her prekindergarten students virtually in her classroom

Tara Matise teaches her prekindergarten students virtually in her classroom prepared ahead of planned in-person learning at Nebinger Elementary School in Philadelphia, Friday, March 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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The School District of Philadelphia is updating its masking guidance.

In a statement Wednesday, the district said cloth masks alone are “no longer considered to be effective protection against the spread of coronavirus.”

According to the new guidance, students and staff who choose to wear a cloth mask should double mask, by wearing it over a 3-ply disposable mask, which the district says it currently provides.

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If students or staff wear a single mask, they should either wear a 3-ply disposable mask or a “well-fitted” N95, KF94, or N95.

Starting Monday, the district will provide staff members with KN95 masks. It plans to distribute adult-sized masks at all district schools.

These changes come several weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its own guidance for the general public, saying that N95 and KN95 masks offer the best protection against COVID-19.

Last month, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health updated its guidance for closing schools, saying due to high community spread, the district should no longer use overall case counts as a metric for ending in-person learning.

Individual schools can still pivot to virtual classes if a large number of staff members are out due to COVID-19.

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