More time, data needed before making decision on masks this school year, OCPS says

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — With school right around the corner, district leaders said they need more time and data before deciding whether to require students and staff to wear masks this school year.

The wait for a decision creates a confusing and nervous time for parents.

Orange County Public Schools reiterated Wednesday that the use of face coverings on all campuses stays in place through Monday.

READ: CDC mask recommendations: Is your county a ‘high transmissibility’ area?

This year’s evolving advice regarding vaccines, masks and COVID-19 made for a frustrating summer for the Vanos family.

Both parents and their 13-year-old are vaccinated, but their two youngest aren’t old enough.

“Were we not supposed to not let our younger kids out of the house, but we could, as parents, take our older kids to do things?” Vanos said.

READ: Early data shows 3rd dose of Pfizer vaccine ‘strongly’ protects against delta variant, company says

With all three children in Orange County Public Schools, Vanos was pleased to find some direction from the CDC this week, recommending masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to K-12 schools, vaccinated or not.

Vanos was surprised Tuesday night to watch the school board hold off adjusting its policy this school year.

“They kept saying last night, ‘Well, we just need data.’ And I’m thinking, but you have all the data,” she said.

READ: Brevard County hospitals using tents to treat new COVID-19 patients

Officials are tracking the numbers and what action our local and state governments take.

Within weeks of declaring a mask-optional return, more than 100 children were hospitalized this month across the country. Pediatric cases alone at Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital nearly tripled.

Now that the CDC has issued its clear guidance, the superintendent can institute a mask policy as she sees fit.