New Hanover County School Board votes against going mask-optional

The vote was 5-2 against masks being optional
Published: Feb. 1, 2022 at 6:06 PM EST
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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - New Hanover County School Board members voted against making masks optional at a meeting Tuesday evening.

The vote was 5-2 against masks being optional. By default, the mask mandate will stay in place.

Board members Nelson Beaulieu and Pete Wildeboer voted in favor of going mask-optional.

In the discussion ahead of the vote, Wildeboer said, according to his math, only 2.45% of cases in the county appear to be in school-age children.

“Others should have the right to choose,” said Wildeboer.

Stefanie Adams used Pender County as an example of the problems of the NCDHHS guidelines for optional masks causing a greater number of children to be quarantined, saying that because of Pender’s 134 cases, 643 kids have to stay home in quarantine.

“Masks are cutting down on quarantine,” said Adams.

Beaulieu said he didn’t think the numbers justified upholding a mask mandate and that New Hanover County case numbers and quarantine rates shouldn’t be compared with other counties.

“I would prefer to have my child quarantined,” said Beaulieu.

The board voted January 4 to make masks mandatory in school buildings following an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases and exposures.

Last week, the school system’s dashboard reported nearly 700 new cases.

According to the county COVID dashboard, there are currently more than 35 schools in NHC with a high level of positive COVID-19 cases and fewer than 10 schools with a high level of students quarantined.

In the community, the 14-day positivity rate through January 31 is 38.8% compared with 30.4% in the previous period. There are 115 COVID-positive patients in hospital; 11 of those are in ICU and 11 are ventilated.

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