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County health officer to recommend masks for school district

Published: Sep. 6, 2021 at 7:37 PM EDT
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PUTNAM COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) – The health officer with the Putnam County Health Department said he’ll be sending a letter Monday night to the Putnam County Board of Education, requesting that they mandate masks.

Dr. Michael Robie said this is due to the uptick in COVID cases, especially with the delta variant. He said CDC guidance recommends masks indoors and on buses, which is what he will be requesting.

On Monday, WSAZ reported that every student, grades kindergarten through fifth, at George Washington Elementary School in Eleanor, are on quarantine.

“This will be the second time I have sent a letter to the BOE,” said Robie in a statement to WSAZ. “It was and still is, my recommendation that all students and staff wear a mask at minimum indoors and while on the buses. This universal masking policy would allow for us to also quarantine a lot less students and give us the ability to hopefully keep schools open with in-person learning.”

Dr. Michael Robie provided WSAZ with the letter he re-submitted to Putnam County Board of Education members Monday night:

Dr. Michael Robie provided WSAZ with the letter he re-submitted to Putnam County Board of...
Dr. Michael Robie provided WSAZ with the letter he re-submitted to Putnam County Board of Education members Monday night.(WSAZ)

“None of us are medical professionals but we are relying on the medical professionals to provide us with guidance and direction,” said Putnam County Board of Education President, Rob Cunningham. “Currently, the direction we have is that Putnam County Schools recommend masks.”

The Putnam County Board of Health also has the authority to mandate masks in school but according to the Chairwoman, Cindy Farley, they are leaving the choice up to the Board of Education.

“They’re elected by the people to manage the affairs of the board and the affairs of the schools, it’s up to them to mandate masks,” said Farley in a statement to WSAZ.

Charlene Armstead is one of many parents in Putnam County who is hoping the board will re-instate the mask mandate. She said her son, Brandon, has a medical condition and is a special needs student.

“He spent a full year and one week last year at home, no in-person school whatsoever (and) being a special education student, there is not a great deal he could do online,” said Armstead. “People are looking at it for different reasons, if they would look at it at a stand point of other people in the community, and other children besides telling me ‘well just keep your child home’ well I’ve already done that. I’ve done that for over a year.”

Todd Dillon is also one of many who is hoping the board continues to keep masks a choice, as he has a daughter who just started kindergarten this year.

“With having someone who’s so young, starting to develop socially, emotionally, working through a lot of those important things that you get at the kindergarten level, it’s important that they can see faces,” said Dillon. “We want it to be a choice overall, if the parents and the families are more comfortable with their child going to school wearing a mask, I think that’s awesome, that’s what they want to do for their children, I want my child personally to learn in an inhibited way.”

Board of Education members will make the final decision.

They have a meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Keep checking the WSAZ app for the latest information.

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