MISSION, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The Hidalgo County Health Authority, Dr. Ivan Melendez, has extended a mandatory mask mandate for all area public and private schools.
Dr. Melendez decided to continue the mandatory mask mandate on Thursday after consulting with the superintendent of local school districts and the medical community.
“Based on all the information I have gathered, including polling 135 doctors and many area superintendents, 100 percent of those polled want the mandate to continue,” Dr. Melendez said during an hour-long meeting on Wednesday with area superintendents. “The mandate should be continued until vaccines are available to everyone,” said Dr. Melendez.
The mandatory mask mandate was initially ordered on August 13 when area schools began preparing for a new school year. The mandate includes the option for individual school boards to vote to opt-out of a mandate.
Area superintendents expressed overwhelming support for continuing the mask mandate during a meeting on Wednesday, saying that the rate of infection in their districts was far lower than originally feared and credited that, in part, to the use of makes.
Area doctors also agreed that masks have a positive effect.
Dr. Melendez said that he is encouraged by the downward trend of the number of cases and believes that facial coverings played a significant role in keeping the numbers from being far worse.
However, COVID infections remain the number one health problem for school-aged children in the county.
As of Thursday, a total of 3,704 students and staff had tested positive for COVID-19 since the mask mandate was initiated. These numbers reflect several staff deaths due to COVID, according to area superintendents, according to a press release from Hidalgo County.
Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez agreed with the decision, particularly because the order gives schools the flexibility to opt-out of the mandate at any time.
“While the number of infections among students and staff appears to be slowing, I urge caution not only among our schools but the community at large,” Judge Cortez said. “This order gives area schools the flexibility they need to exercise caution while giving them the option to opt-out of the mandate at any time of their choosing.”