Clay County teacher worries district’s mask policy could lead to spread of COVID-19

High school students in Clay County wear masks to school.
High school students in Clay County wear masks to school. (WJXT)

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – A Clay County teacher is asking the school district to reexamine its face-covering policy after students in his school continue to wear masks that are not recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The teacher — who asked to remain anonymous because he fears possible repercussions — said he regularly sees students wearing neck gaiters and masks with vents, two face coverings that are not recommended by the CDC.

The CDC said masks with vents “allow virus particles to escape.” And when it comes to neck gaiters, “evaluation is on-going but effectiveness is unknown at this time,” according to the CDC.

The Clay Department of Health told News4Jax on Friday it recommends schools follow the latest CDC guidance regarding the use of face masks and COVID-19.

“We have kids who I think don’t really know or understand what a proper mask is and what it’s intended to do,” the teacher said.

The teacher said he raised the issue with the district but it showed no interest in addressing the policy.

Mayo Clinic has banned maks with vents. Disney World and other school districts, including Duval County Public Schools, has discouraged the use of both face coverings.

Studies have drawn different conclusions about neck gaiters.

Duke University researchers say neck gaiters or fleece masks worn around the neck and pulled up over the mouth and nose are counterproductive and might actually spread COVID-19 instead of stopping it. But other researchers have since found that it was much more likely that Duke’s neck gaiter was shedding microscopic pieces of fibers from the fabric.

The teacher said the good news is, at his school most students wear proper masks and wear them when they are supposed to.

“I was really really shocked about the compliance of the kids,” he said. “I walk down the halls and kids have their face masks on, sometimes you got to tell him to put it up a little bit or things like that, but I was very impressed with the kids wearing the masks.”

According to the Clay school district’s reopening plan:

“Face coverings shall be either commercially produced surgical masks or commercially produced or homemade cloth face coverings provided that they fit snugly against the sides of the wearer’s face with little or no gap and comply with school dress codes.”

Everyone, including all students, employees, parents, visitors and vendors, must wear a face covering which covers both the nose and mouth at all times while at, on or inside of any building, facility, school, school grounds or vehicle owned, leased or operated by the district, the policy continues.

News4Jax asked the district Wednesday about its mask policy and a spokeswoman referred us to the reopening plan.

When asked if the district plans to reexamine the face-covering policy, the district did not immediately respond Friday.

The Clay County teacher who spoke with News4Jax said he’s worried the use of masks that aren’t recommended by the CDC could lead to more coronavirus infections at schools in the district. He said there have already been students in his class that have been forced to quarantine due to possible exposure to the virus.

The district told News4Jax it cannot provide the total number of students who have had to quarantine for 14 days or the total number of COVID-19 cases since school began on Aug. 25.

“The Florida Department of Health - Clay County conducts all contact tracing as well as tracks positive cases. That is not information that the District keeps. The District understands that the Florida Department of Health is in the process of creating a statewide public dashboard for school districts with positive COVID-19 cases,” a district spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

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