Face masks continue to be part of the classroom experience for unvaccinated students in new guidance from the Mississippi State Department of Health.

Reflecting CDC guidelines, the new state recommendations rolled out Friday afternoon amid what is now being described as a fourth wave of COVIDE infections.

MSDH is encouraging all students 12 and older who are eligible to be vaccinated, along with staff.

“It is our public health duty to make sure that kids who are infected with COVIDE don’t go to school,” said State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs during a weekly COVIDE update. “They’re going to have to stay home when they get it, and close contacts are going to have to quarantine.”

State Epidemiologist Paul Byers said vaccination is the key to getting back to normal school days in K-12 settings.

“If you’re fully vaccinated, you don’t have to wear a mask,” he said. “You don’t have to get tested. You don’t have to do quarantine if you’re exposed. Any individual who is unvaccinated indoors in the school setting should be wearing a mask at all times. We want to make sure that is clear.”

The guidance for the unvaccinated to wear a face covering applies to children ages two years and older.

Other guidance from MSDH:

Schools should maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms to reduce transmission risk.

Routine screening testing of asymptomatic unvaccinated students, teachers and staff is recommended as an additional measure to prevent further transmission.

Schools should continue to isolate COVIDE-19 infected students, teachers and staff and continue contact tracing to identify exposed individuals for quarantine and exclusion from the school setting.

All students, teachers and staff who have symptoms of any infectious illness, regardless of vaccination status, should stay home from school and be evaluated by their health care provider.

Fully vaccinated students and staff do not have to be tested unless symptomatic.

MSDH reported 2,326 new positive cases and three new deaths on Monday for the three-day weekend period. On Friday, MSDH reported a death in Prentiss County that occurred last week, bringing the county to 62 total deaths.

Staff Writer

Jebb Johnston is a 1991 Alcorn Central High School graduate and a 1995 Ole Miss journalism graduate. His primary beats are city and county government.

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