Massachusetts extends school mask mandate through mid-January

Massachusetts extends school mask mandate through mid-January
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Mask requirements at most Massachusetts public schools will be extended until Jan. 15, 2022, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced Tuesday.

“Masks remain a simple and effective measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep students in school safely,” the state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education commissioner, Jeffrey Riley, said in a statement.

Under the mandate, which was previously extended to Nov. 1 in August, students aged five and older in all grades, as well as staff, are required to wear a mask indoors, except when eating, drinking, or on a mask break, the press release said. Visitors are also required to wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status.

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Students may be exempt from the requirement if they have medical or behavioral reasons.

The press release adds that school officials will lift the mask requirement if they can demonstrate that at least 80 percent of all students and staff in the building are vaccinated. Two schools recently reached that requirement and had the mask mandate at their school lifted, according to NBC Boston.

"Massachusetts is a national leader in vaccination rates for adults and eligible children, and in anticipation of the vaccine becoming available in the coming weeks for children ages 5 to 11 years old, this extension of the mask requirement will allow time for the elementary school population to receive the COVID-19 vaccine," state Education Secretary James Peyser said. "This will be another big step forward in our efforts to keep school safe for our kids."