BLAINE COUNTY, Idaho — The Blaine County School District is lifting one of its major COVID-19 safety protocols. The school district had its mask mandate in place since the start of the pandemic. On Monday, officials implemented an optional mask-wearing policy for all staff and students.
“We’re optimistic, we're happy to see the data appears to be favorable right now, and it seems like an appropriate time to do this," said Jim Foudy, the superintendent for the Blaine County School District. "But there is always a weight of concern in these decisions.”
The decision to rescind the mask mandate came Sunday, following an announcement from the CDC they would be relaxing on masking across the entire US. School officials then looked at case trends, which were on a downward trend, and vaccination rates.
The current positivity rate for Blaine County is 12%. Just over a month ago the positivity rate was over 30%. Vaccination rates are also good as roughly 80% of Blaine County is fully vaccinated, and just over 50% is vaccinated with a booster.
COVID-19 case counts in the schools have also gone down which made school officials feel it was the right choice to lift the mandate.
“When we reviewed the conditions, Blaine County fit that profile," said Foudy. "Additionally, right now in our schools last week, we had a total of five students that were COVID positive and no staff.”
Back in January, the school district had over 300 students and 60 staff members out sick with COVID-19.
However, since the decision was made, there has been a mixed reaction from Blaine County residents.
“ We have people that are concerned, that feel we moved to this a little too quickly," said Foudy. "We have people that are concerned that we waited too long and everybody in between.”
Since there are different opinions among parents, the district is looking to provide other means of schooling.
“We’re looking at that on a case by case basis," said Foudy. "For individuals that maybe are in a very health sensitive situation, we can look at homebound instruction, or we can look at other options.”
The district plans to have this optional mask-wearing policy in place for the duration of the school year. Yet, if conditions worsen and guidelines change, officials will meet to discuss the next best step.