As students head back to school this week, a temporary policy was rolled out on Monday, August 9, requiring masks to be worn indoors for students, faculty, and staff of Catholic schools.
The leadership of the Diocese of St. Augustine shifted from their earlier policy due to the rapid increase of COVID-19 cases, dangerous variants and the hesitancy of people getting vaccinated in Florida.
“Our revised safety protocols have nothing to do with politics but everything to do with the reality we face today,” said Bishop Felipe Estévez of the Diocese of St. Augustine. “Children under the age of 12 and older are contracting the virus and its variants at increasing rates. The vaccine is not available to our younger population, making them especially vulnerable to serious illness and others who come into contact with them,” he said.
The protocols released on August 9 are temporary measures to protect our students, teachers, and staff, said Deacon Scott Conway, superintendent of Catholic schools. “No one likes wearing masks, and we want to return to a mask-optional model for schools as quickly as possible,” he said.
Deacon Conway and his staff will be monitoring the COVID positivity rates provided by the Florida Department of Health weekly, as well as diocesan data. Masks will be optional once the positivity rates of people contracting COVID-19 and its variants dip to 10 percent or less. Visit www.dosaeducation.org/covid-19 to see the weekly updates by county. Once a county reaches a ten percent or less positivity rate, masks will become optional for the schools in that county. “As more of the population gets vaccinated, the quicker we can return to mask-optional schools,” said Conway.
Bishop Estévez shared that everyone needs to do their part in fighting this killer virus. “If you haven’t been vaccinated, and can, I encourage you to do it soon,” he said, adding that too many people who have resisted getting vaccinated find themselves in the hospital fighting for their lives. Those that survive have stated they wish they had gotten the vaccine.
To read the COVID-19 protocols for Catholic schools, adopted August 9 by the Diocese of St. Augustine, visit www.dosaeducation.org/covid-19.