Decatur Schools keeping mask policy following new guidance to vaccinated AmericansFILE PHOTO USED FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES: Maria Bachman, an 8th grade science teacher for City Schools of Decatur performs a hands-on experiment using a candle to show the difference in airflow through several types of cloth used in masks. Photo by Dean Hesse.
This story has been updated.
Atlanta, GA — The Centers for Disease Control on May 13 revised its guidance for Americans who have gotten a COVID-19 vaccine and are fully vaccinated.
It’s prompting local school districts to reevaluate their mask requirements for vaccinated students and staff.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Cobb County and Marietta City School Districts announced that vaccinated students and staff would no longer have to wear masks in response to the CDC’s announcement.
With 10 days remaining in the school year, City Schools of Decatur Superintendent Dr. Maggie Fehrman, after talking to school leaders, decided that the district will keep its mandatory mask policy in place for the remainder of the school year for staff and students, she announced on Friday, May 14. The CDC also has not yet changed its guidance for wearing masks in schools.
“I believe that we stand stronger together,” Fehrman said. “Everyone continuing to wear their mask for the next two weeks while attending school will be a heroic way to show our support of all members in our community by not isolating those who have not had the opportunity to get vaccinated as well as supporting those who have yet to make the personal decision to get vaccinated.”
Fehrman previously said she’s meeting with the district’s leadership team to determine whether the district also wants to revise its mandatory mask policy for vaccinated students and staff.
“We’re still thinking about it,” Fehrman said. “We feel not a sufficient number have been vaccinated, and we don’t want the unvaccinated people, particularly staff and students of color who have chosen not to get vaccinated, to feel they’re more restricted. We’re going to make a determination on how we’re going to finish the year.”
After receiving backlash over this quote Fehrman also issued an apology on Friday acknowledging that the quote may have been harmful to the CSD community.
“Specifically under consideration, is a part of the interview in which I implied that CSD’s Black community may be the majority of individuals who are vaccine-resistant,” Fehrman said. “My statement was incorrect and potentially harmful to individuals in the Black community.”
“I am now fully aware of what my statement implied and take full responsibility for my mistake,” she added. “Positioning vaccine distrust as a problem specific to African Americans is not only inaccurate and unjust — it’s also harmful. As a result, I would like to correct my statement and apologize to all in our community who may have been harmed or hurt.”
Vaccine hesitancy is not exclusive to the Black community and individuals are hesitant to get the vaccine in every demographic, Fehrman said. She added that there is not a single, collective perspective or position taken by all Black individuals in the country.
“Black people are not a monolith, and white people must avoid perpetuating single stories, dominant narratives, and critical misunderstandings about Black communities,” Fehrman said. “Implicit bias and whiteness are pervasive and systemic in the U.S., and, while I am a white woman who will always be learning and becoming in my anti-racist advocacy, there are days when I accidentally step off the path and must self-correct. This was one of those days. I am proud to be the superintendent of the entire CSD community and when or if I harm our community, I will always move readily toward learning and growth.”
According to the Washington Post, if you’ve been fully vaccinated you don’t need masks or need to social distance, including in situations where you’re indoors or with a large group.
“We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a briefing, according to The Post. “Based on the continuing downward trajectory of cases, the scientific data on the performance of our vaccines and our understanding of how the virus spreads, that moment has come for those who are fully vaccinated.”
People will still need to wear masks on trains, planes, buses and in health care settings, the Post reported. To read the full story, click here.
The news comes as cases are continuing their downward trend, including Georgia, and millions of Americans get their COVID-19 vaccines. Locally, there are plans to bring back the Decatur BBQ Blues & Bluegrass Festival on Aug. 14 at Legacy Park. There are also discussions about bringing back the popular Oakhurst Porchfest event, but there have been no official announcements yet.
Meanwhile, Kirkwood has decided to bring back a scaled-down version of its Spring Fling event, which will be held on July 31.
It’s unclear what effect the new guidance will have on citywide mask ordinances like the one in place in Decatur and other cities.
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