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The ISD 197 school board will meet on Tuesday, March 1 in a special meeting to consider dropping the mask mandate. The announcement comes Friday evening following new guidance on mask wearing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued earlier today.
The new guidance focuses on hospitalizations, local hospital capacity, and death rates, instead of COVID-19 infection rates. Dakota County currently has a “low” level of COVID-19 and the CDC recommendations do not require masks but do encourage vaccines, boosters, and getting tested if you have symptoms.
The ISD 197 administration is recommending dropping the mask requirement but supporting personal choices regarding wearing masks. They note that they may shift back to a mask mandate for individual classrooms or schools as needed. They also note that masks will still be required on school buses, per federal transportation rules.
Dakota County and West St. Paul are also dropping their mask requirements in city and county buildings.
Like much of the country, ISD 197 saw a spike in COVID-19 cases in January due to the omicron variant. The number of cases in a single week exceeded cases seen throughout the entire fall combined. The latest data shows case numbers have fallen back to levels seen during the fall.
So far, nearly 83% of the eligible population in Dakota County has at least one vaccine dose. For 12- to 15-year-olds that drops to 75% and for 5- to 11-year-olds it drops to 48%.
March 1, 2022 Update: Mask Mandate Rescinded
Masks will no longer be required in ISD 197 facilities as the school board voted 6-1 earlier today to lift the mask mandate. The lone ‘no’ vote came from Jon Vaupel, who proposed several amendments to delay the effective date by a week and still require masks for the early learning center. Those amendments were ultimately rejected. You can watch the meeting for full context.