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COVID surge forces mask mandate

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More mask-time is being required at local schools

HARTINGTON — With the recent Cedar County surge in COVID-19 cases, area schools are making some adjustments to keep staff and students safe.

The latest Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department report shows that the region has moved farther into the Orange, or High Risk area.

Cedar Catholic Principal Chris Uttecht announced that masks will now be required to be worn by students at the school. Previously, Cedar had a “masks on the move,” policy where masks only had to be worn while students were moving from class to class. 

Students and staff will now be required to wear masks at all times except for designated break periods.

Spectators at sporting events will also be required to follow new COVID-19 rules concerning masks and social distancing, he said.

Hartington-Newcastle School Supt. A.J. Johnson said HNS teachers, staff and students in grades 7-12 will now be required to wear masks at all times during the day with scheduled mask breaks for everyone. 

Johnson said it is hoped this action will keep kids in school.

“Part of this decision is being made to lessen the chance that large numbers of students will need to be quarantined.” Johnson said. 

This mandate is only being made of junior high and high school students because they intermingle with different grade levels for their classes.

“Since the high school students often cross grade levels for many classes, the requirement is just for grades 7-12, while elementary classes are kept within their class groups all day and a far fewer number of kids would need to be quarantined,” Johnson said.

Under current quarantine rules, if one student who tests positive was not wearing a mask, anyone with close contact with them will be forced to quarantine for 14 days, whether they where a mask, or not.

”It is possible that one student who tests positive could quarantine a large number of students,” Johnson said, adding that this mask plan should help to lessen the chances of an infection happening.

Anyone entering the school must adhere to the mask rule, as well, he said.

“Because of this change, all indoor activities will require masks from when you enter the building until you exit,” he said. “If you are having something from the concession stand, you may take your mask off to eat or drink, but must put it back on when you’re done.”

Johnson said he understands these new guidelines may be a challenge for students, staff, parents and fans, but he hopes  the measure helps to keep people safe.

”It is our  hope that this requirement will help us stay in school and keep our kids able to participate in activities,” he said.