FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — As part of Monday’s public health advisory, Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Matthew Sutter announced he’s pushing for students to mask up in schools, urging school boards to adopt mandatory mask policies.
“While children are at lower risk for hospitalization and death, this is not a benign illness in children,” said Dr. Sutter in the advisory. “Children who are infected can easily spread the disease in their households and are an important driver of overall community spread. Vaccinations and masks are our best tools for keeping schools open this fall. We strongly recommend school boards adopt universal masking in Allen County K-12 schools.”
Dr. Sutter added that schools “are one of the last institutions he wants to see close” and wearing masks is the best way to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“I know that some people have very strong opinions on that and frankly the masks are uncomfortable to wear,” said Dr. Sutter. “But, it’s a small price to pay for keeping the economy open and keeping vital institutions like our schools open. I think having kids in the classroom makes a lot of sense. We have to find a way to do that safely.”
Currently Fort Wayne Community Schools is the only district in Allen County with a mask requirement for its students and staff members.
As of now, the county’s remaining districts are still standing by their current policies. A spokesperson for Northwest Allen County Schools (NACS) says the district is still mask-optional.
“The Board of School Trustees has not made any changes to its COVID-mitigation procedures, nor have they met to discuss the latest information issued by the Allen County Department of Health or other medical professionals. It is possible but not inevitable that discussion related to any agenda items listed will occur at Wednesday’s executive session, however, decisions will not be made behind closed doors.”Lizette Downey, NACS spokeswoman
This plea from the health commissioner comes just over a week after Dr. Himsel, the district’s superintendent sent a letter to NACS families asking students to mask up voluntarily.
Southwest Allen County Schools is in the same boat.
“As you know Dr. Sutter’s advisory was just released and SACS is reviewing his recommendations. SACS is constantly monitoring COVID-19 data not only Allen County, but numbers in our schools and throughout the SACS community. While Dr. Ginder is currently authorized to make changes to SACS’ Return to the Classroom plan, all changes must be board approved. We will use today to ensure the Board is aware of Dr. Sutter’s new advisory and determine if changes to the plan need to be made.”Stacey Fleming, SACS spokeswoman
While East Allen County Schools did not provide WANE 15 with a statement, a spokesperson for the district said it will continue to follow the guidelines in its Return to School Plan.
The plan, made prior to Dr. Sutter’s advisory, details that masks will be optional East Allen County Schools for the 2020-2021 school year. However, it adds that “if masks are required by CDC, ACDH, or IDOH, due to an increase in COVID-19 cases in our area,” the plan may change.
WANE 15 also reached out to multiple board members from the three districts. We were told, though, that no one was available for comment at this time.