Many Massachusetts students and school staff members will be stuck wearing face masks for several more months because a K-12 public school mask mandate in the state is being extended through at least Jan. 15, 2022.
"The Department, in collaboration with medical experts and state health officials, will continue to evaluate and consider other criteria that could be used in the future to lift the mask requirement based on public health data," according to a press release from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Public school pupils age 5 and older and staff must use masks while inside at schools, though exceptions are allowed for eating, drinking, and during mask breaks.
"Students and staff who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons, and students who cannot wear a mask for behavioral reasons are exempted from this requirement," the release notes.
"It is strongly recommended that students younger than 5 also wear a mask in school," it also states.
School officials will still have the opportunity to eliminate the mask requirement if they can show that at least 80% of students and staff in a school building have been vaccinated, according to the release.
"Masks remain a simple and effective measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep students in school safely," Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley said.
Mask mandates imposed around the U.S. amid the COVID-19 pandemic have proven to be divisive and controversial.
So far in the U.S., COVID-19 vaccination has only been green lighted for individuals 12 and older, but children ages 5 to 11 could soon be eligible to get vaccinated as well.