Camden County Schools require masks for K-12 schools regardless of vaccine

The Camden County Schools Safe Opening Plan calls for mandatory mask wearing for all individuals inside schools, buildings, and offices. Officials say this is a result of the COVID delta variant’s “devastating impact.”

Camden health officials agreed.

“More kids are becoming infected with the delta variant than in the past. So, what’s happening is the kid goes to school and he comes back home and the parents aren’t vaccinated, then they’re bringing that back home to their parents which puts the parents at risk as well as the child,” Camden County Health Department nurse manager Melissa Perkins said.

The mandate is causing mixed reactions from parents.

“I think if you are worried about your kids around the virus ... you put your kids in a mask. If you’re worried about the virus then you can wear a mask, not force it on everyone else,” parent Rebel Blalock said.

Blalock said if parents are worried they can enroll their kids in virtual school.

On social media, the news was met with support and opposition.

Some said it’s not hard to wear a mask. Others said they believe the mandate is sacrificing education.

Other policies state if an unvaccinated person is exposed to COVID-19, they’ll have to quarantine; those who are vaccinated do not.

Masks are required on buses, and assemblies during the school day are on hold.

School officials also stated the new rule is in place to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

“When you look at the infectivity of the virus itself, the easiest way to protect kids and their parents and the teachers was for masking,” said Dr. Tom Whitesell, Southeast Georgia Health System Camden Campus chief of staff.

Camden County is paying attention to the numbers, specifically the abnormally high COVID-19 transmission index and positivity rate.

The positivity rate, according to the Georgia Department of Health, is more than 25% according to data from the past two weeks.

School officials said the transmission index was in the 900s on Monday.

Both the school district and doctors agreed the delta variant is a concern.

“It raised its infectivity portion from a two to an eight, which for those of us that deal with this is very scary,” Whitesell said.

“I think with such a high transmission rate that we have right now in Camden County that it’s the proven thing to do. Hopefully when the rate goes down lower, they’ll reconsider and be able to look at the decision again,” said Glenn Gann, Southeast Georgia Health System Camden Campus vice president and administrator.

Doctors said the delta variant is infecting younger people, which is why mask wearing in schools again is necessary.

“Now we’re hospitalizing people that aren’t on any medications that are otherwise healthy,” Whitesell said.

School officials were unable to speak on camera about the plan; however, we were given the following statement via email:

“The mask/face covering requirement is in place for all faculty/staff members, students, and visitors in our school buildings and offices. While we don’t have a vaccine requirement, we strongly encourage all Camden residents who are eligible to take this opportunity to become fully vaccinated against COVID if they have not already been vaccinated.

“We are evaluating the Camden County COVID numbers daily and work closely with the Coastal Department of Public Health to ensure we are receiving the most current and accurate information available. Suspending our current mask requirement will not be considered until the Community Transmission Index is below 200. The rate for Camden was 942 yesterday.

Additional information regarding our back-to-school plans may be found on our website at www.camden.k12.ga.us.”

You can read the full opening plan here.

You can stay up-to-date on the latest COVID numbers in Georgia here.