VDH responds to Roanoke County School Board’s vote to make masks optional in the classroom

‘Now is not the time to experiment with our teachers’ and our children’s health,’ said Dr. Cynthia Morrow

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – An unexpected work session vote Tuesday by the Roanoke County School Board to get rid of the school-wide mask mandate if and when Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin reverses the current public health order.

“I don’t think anyone should take away anyone’s right to mask nor do I believe that one person should take away someone’s right not to mask,” said member Cheryl Facciani.

The move would also return the school district to pre-COVID medical policies which means no required testing, quarantining or contact tracing protocols.

However, that could only happen if Senate Bill 1303 is repealed. It’s a Virginia law passed last year that requires school districts to follow CDC guidance to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

As cases spike in young children, accounting for record numbers of hospitalizations, the CDC recommends universal indoor masking by all students age 2 and up, staff, teachers, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status.

Though Facciani, who made the motion, had this to say about the CDC: “To be clear, the CDC is not the fourth branch of government.”

Chairman David Linden questioned whether or not Youngkin would reverse the order.

“Because of omicron and the surge in cases, I don’t anticipate the new governor back-tracking on that,” said Linden.

Members did express hesitations about voting during a work session without legal counsel or public input. But ultimately, the vote passed.

In response, the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health District Director Dr. Cynthia Morrow released a statement that reads:

“I need to stress the importance of maintaining universal indoor masking in our schools. Masking is currently required and should stay in place until our levels of community transmission significantly decrease. Now is not the time to experiment with our teachers’ and our children’s health.”

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You can watch Lindsey during Virginia Today every weekend or as a reporter during the week!