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Pediatrician: Keep mask mandates in Mississippi schools

October 2, 2021 GMT
St. Patrick students Ann Larkin Vollor, Denise Quedado, and Madison Sloan learn about music during a field trip at the Missisippi Children's Meridian in Meridian, Miss on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021. (Bianca Moorman/The Meridian Star via AP)
St. Patrick students Ann Larkin Vollor, Denise Quedado, and Madison Sloan learn about music during a field trip at the Missisippi Children's Meridian in Meridian, Miss on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021. (Bianca Moorman/The Meridian Star via AP)
St. Patrick students Ann Larkin Vollor, Denise Quedado, and Madison Sloan learn about music during a field trip at the Missisippi Children's Meridian in Meridian, Miss on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021. (Bianca Moorman/The Meridian Star via AP)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The leader of a Mississippi pediatricians’ organization is urging school districts to keep mask mandates in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“Many school boards in Mississippi are removing mask requirements,” Dr. Anita Henderson of Hattiesburg, president of the Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said Thursday on Twitter. “Kids under 12 cannot be vaccinated and only about 30% of all 12-17 year-olds in Mississippi are fully vaccinated. Now is not the time to let our guard down.”

The Mississippi State Department of Health has reported nine pediatric deaths from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic in the spring of 2020.

Mississippi saw a significant surge in COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations starting in July, but numbers have decreased in recent weeks.

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In central Mississippi, the Madison County School District removed most of its mask mandate as of Sept. 24, making masks optional in most places but still required on buses. The district has about 13,000 students.

Also in the central part of the state, Rankin County School Board voted Sept. 22 to remove a mandate, saying that masks are now “not required but highly recommended” in the district with more than 18,000 students. The change in the central Mississippi district came weeks after some parents protested the mandate at a school board meeting.

On the Gulf Coast, the Ocean Springs School Board voted Wednesday to lift a mask mandate as of Thursday in the district with about 5,800 students. The district said in a statement that board members decided weeks earlier that the mandate would disappear after COVID-19 hospitalizations in Mississippi fell below 925 for seven consecutive days. It said that threshold was met Sept. 24.