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Some Lee County schools making masks optional

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KEOKUK (WGEM) -- Two of Lee County's three public school districts are making mask wearing optional after the Iowa Department of Public Health handed down new guidance late last week.

Released on Friday, the new guidance encourages schools to drop mask requirements and loosen restrictions surrounding COVID-19 exposures.

The Central Lee and Fort Madison school districts have announced they will be making masks optional for staff and students starting Wednesday.

Central Lee superintendent Andy Crozier said they made the decision after looking at their numbers.

"We've had one student positive case that we're aware of since February 7th. We've only had two staff cases since February 1. We've had very few kids in quarantine," he said. "The large majority of our staff is vaccinated."

Crozier said they'll also be adopting the new guidelines from the state concerning COVID-19 exposures.

"They're not required to quarantine," he said. "If that exposure does happen in school we will be alerting all parents regarding their students positive exposure and parents can make the decision whether or not to they choose to quarantine."

Administrators in Keokuk said while they are also adopting the new quarantine guidelines, they're keeping their mask mandate.

"We really feel that it's important for the remainder of the school year, the remaining nine days, that we continue the practices that we've had in place this year," superintendent Christine Barnes said.

She said when it comes to mask wearing, they're sticking to CDC guidelines which recommends people stay masked until they're fully vaccinated.

"Children aren't getting the vaccines yet. Some older children are, some teenage ages are but no young children," Barnes said.

Officials in both districts are encouraging parents and children to get vaccinated so they can put masks in the rearview mirror for good for the next school year.

"I have an 11 year old that turns 12 in the month of June and I've already told him that his 12th birthday present will be the Pfizer vaccine," Crozier said.

According to the latest numbers from the Lee County Health Department, 31.3 percent of county residents are fully vaccinated.

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Blake Sammann

Blake Sammann is a reporter and weekend anchor at WGEM News.

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