Health chief toughens call: ‘Universal masking for all Fayette K-12 schools indoors.’

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Everyone inside a Fayette public school, including all students in kindergarten through 12th grade, should be wearing a mask this fall to fight the pandemic, Lexington-Fayette Public Health Commissioner Kraig Humbaugh said Wednesday night in a new recommendation.

Fayette County Public School officials, who haven’t yet announced a decision on mask wearing when school starts August 11, did not immediately comment.

“We will follow current CDC guidance to recommend universal masking for all K-12 schools indoors. State officials are also reviewing the guidance,” Humbaugh said.

Tuesday afternoon, federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials made a new recommendation saying all students, staff and visitors to K-12 schools should wear a mask when students resume in-person learning, regardless of whether they were fully vaccinated.

Humbaugh’s Wednesday recommendation was stronger than what he suggested earlier this week when he said students in elementary and middle schools should be wearing masks indoors because students under 12 were not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

In updated guidance, the CDC recommended reinstating mask protocols for the upcoming school year, which reversed previous recommendations that said students and staff vaccinated against COVID-19 did not have to wear face masks indoors.

The Delta variant has caused an increase in COVID-19 cases recently particularly among the unvaccinated, with overall infections up 300 percent in a little over a month.

On Tuesday, Fayette County Public Schools spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall indicated that district officials weren’t ready to announce a decision. She said the district is committed to welcoming everyone back to school in-person this August and ensuring that students “experience all the joys and advantages of being together on campus with classmates and caring adults.”

“Experiences from the past year have proven that our district can minimize the potential spread of COVID-19 when proper precautions — including layers of prevention strategies — are implemented with fidelity,” Deffendall said. “We are still finalizing specific health and safety guidelines for families and will communicate them as soon as they are complete.”

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