Suffolk Public Schools students still have to mask on buses

Published 6:58 pm Friday, March 4, 2022

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People riding public school buses or vans in Suffolk will still be required to wear masks, despite a new directive from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to remove the requirement.

The CDC, in its updated guidance issued Feb. 25, said that while it is “exercising its enforcement discretion” to not require masks on school buses or vans, “school systems at their discretion may choose to require that people wear masks on buses or vans.”

A March 1 letter from the school division to parents states that “Suffolk Public Schools will continue to require the use of face coverings by all persons, including students, while on school buses.”

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Also, while students now have the option of wearing masks on school property, that does not apply to anyone else.

“While on the property of Suffolk Public Schools, all employees, parents and visitors are also required to wear a face-covering to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” the letter states. “‘Suffolk Public Schools’ property includes extracurricular activities and school board meetings.”

The school division had, in a Feb. 16 letter responding to legislation signed into law by Gov. Glenn Youngkin making masks optional for students, stated that parents can choose for their child not to wear a mask while on school property.

Suffolk Police escorted several people out of the Feb. 10 School Board meeting, including Chuckatuck Borough School Board representative Sherri Story, after not complying with a directive from chairwoman Dr. Judith Brooks-Buck to wear masks.

The Feb. 16 letter stated that the school division would “continue to strongly encourage” students to wear masks while on school division property.”

Statewide the percent positivity stands at 7.2%, according to the Virginia Department of Health. while in Suffolk it’s 4.88%, according to the CDC (VDH only reports local-specific percent positivity once per week on Mondays). The case rate per 100,000 people in the city is 53.2. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the city and statewide have dropped off dramatically since surging to record-highs in January. However, 26 people in the city died from COVID-19 in February, marking the highest one-month death total since the same period last year.

But among children from birth to age 17, there have been 3,796 total cases since July 11, 2021 in the Western Tidewater Health District, which includes Suffolk, with nine hospitalizations and one death, according to state department of health data. In the broader Eastern Region, no children 17 and under were hospitalized for the week ending Feb. 26.