Hidalgo County health authority extends school mask mandate
Hidalgo County Health Authority Dr. Ivan Melendez announced Thursday that the county’s school mask mandate will be extended for another nine weeks.
The mask mandate, initially issued in August, was set to expire Friday, Oct. 15.
The extension comes after a Wednesday meeting between Melendez and county superintendents who expressed “overwhelming support” for continuing the mask mandate, according to a news release from the county.
“The rate of infection in their districts was far lower than originally feared and they attributed that, in part, to the use of facial coverings,” Melendez stated in the news release. “Area doctors also agreed that the masks were having a positive effect.”
Melendez says this decision comes after data continues to show nearly half of all Covid infections in the county are in the 0 to 19 age group.
"It only seemed like the appropriate thing to do after collaborating with the other stakeholders who also requested that this mandate continue," Melendez said.
As of Thursday, a total of 3,704 students and staff had tested positive for COVID-19 since the mask mandate was initiated, according to the release. These numbers reflect several staff deaths due to COVID, according to area superintendents.
In a statement, Hidalgo County Judge Richard. F. Cortez said the mandate will continue to allow the option for individual school boards to vote to opt out of the mandate.
“While the number of infections among students and staff appear 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.”