Oldham County Schools drops mask mandate as Omicron variant emerges
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The Oldham County School Board voted early November to recommend instead of require masks for all students, staff, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status, beginning Nov. 11.
The district first lifted the mask requirement for Oldham County high schoolers. On the Monday following Thanksgiving break, the mask mandate was lifted for the entire district.
However, as the new COVID-19 variant Omicron emerges, some parents and doctors say the change could be considered bad timing.
Shannon Stocker’s 13-year-old daughter, Cassidy Stocker, has a rare, inoperable brain tumor. It requires her to receive chemotherapy, which in turn, makes her immunocompromised.
The vaccine and masks are the South Oldham seventh grader’s only lifelines. Her mother told WAVE 3 News COVID-19 could be a death sentence for Cassidy.
Stocker was disappointed when the board approved the change to the mask policy, because they didn’t give every child enough time to get vaccinated, and the change would take place immediately following Thanksgiving break when children were likely traveling and/or around large groups of people.
“It’s terrifying, and it’s heartbreaking,” Stocker said. “We put both of our kids in the car this morning in tears, to send them to school.”
When the Oldham County School Board voted to end the mask mandate, cases in the area were trending down.
More than four weeks later, the county is back in the red zone and cases are up at 39 per 100,000 people.
According to a district-wide survey, 58.8 percent of Oldham County parents voted in favor of making masks optional. 52.9 percent of school staff agreed.
However, Stocker said the board shouldn’t take those numbers into consideration; instead, they should follow the advice of medical professionals.
“You don’t listen to the politicized opinions coming from the parents, or even the emotional ones coming from other parents,” Stocker said. “You listen to the experts.”
Experts, including Dr. Jason Smith from UofL Health, told WAVE 3 News he recommends masking in public places, getting vaccinated, and washing hands regardless of the new variant.
He added that a mask doesn’t protect the person wearing it; it protects the other people around them.
“Remember, the masks are to make sure that you don’t spread it to another person,” Smith said. “They don’t filter the virus out. But if you’re sick and you’re coughing, sneezing, what have you, you’re not going to spread that to another individual out in the community, and that’s what stops those things.”
“That’s why masks and handwashing are going to be important no matter what we do with the variants until we get this completely under control,” he added.
“I wish people would try to put themselves in the shoes of people like me where I’ve got a kid on chemo, and she is only as safe as the people in her classroom,” Stocker said.
Oldham County Schools will continue to monitor case numbers, and the district can reinstate the mask mandate if cases escalate to a certain level; that level has not been determined yet.
All students and bus drivers are still required to wear masks on school buses due to a federal mandate.
To read more about Cassidy’s health journey, and to donate, click here.
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