More US schools are introducing mask mandates as COVID cases surge

More schools across the United States are introducing mask requirements as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

Ahead of the winter break, districts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania announced they would temporarily require masks for students and staff amid a surge in respiratory illnesses.

Now schools in Massachusetts and Michigan are following suit, while schools in Chicago are asking students to take quick tests before class begins.

Chelsea Public Schools in Boston announced in a Letter to the community that the decision was due to Suffolk County being classified as “high risk” for transmission of COVID-19 as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“As a result of this designation, Chelsea Public Schools will implement a mask mandate beginning Monday, January 9,” wrote Superintendent Dr. Almi G. Abeyta in the letter. “Masks must be worn in school buildings at all times except when eating or drinking… Mask-wearing remains mandatory for everyone visiting our school health offices and for everyone returning to the school after a five-day quarantine following a positive COVID-19 school return diagnosis.”

A child wears a child’s KN95 protective mask ordered January 13, 2022 in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.

Tiffany Hagler-Geard/Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE

The letter did not mention how long the mandate should apply.

Meanwhile, Michigan’s Ann Arbor Public Schools announced they are instituting a two-week mandate beginning Monday, January 9 and ending Friday, January 20.

According to local subsidiary WXYZthe decision comes after a spate of respiratory illnesses led to at least five school closures in December alone.

“Ann Arbor Public Schools will require well-fitting masks to be worn by students, staff and visitors indoors at AAPS schools beginning January 9 and for the first two weeks after winter break,” Superintendent Jeanice Kerr Swift wrote in a Letter for families, students and employees. “Extra masks are available in all school buildings for students and staff.”

In addition, Chicago Public Schools announced they are asking students and staff to take a rapid COVID-19 test at home before entering classrooms.

“To ensure the safety of our school communities, please test for COVID-19 before returning to school,” she said note to read. “If you test positive, please report the positive test using the COVID-19 self-report form and follow the instructions on our security page.”

Data from the CDC shows COVID-19 cases are increasing even as cases of RSV and flu trend down.

Weekly cases have increased from 309,253 in the week of November 30 to 470,699 in the week of January 4. Data shows.

ABC News Ahmad Hemingway contributed to this report.

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