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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

Masks are now optional in Gaston County schools but still required at CMS

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Masks are no longer required in Gaston County Schools starting Monday. This makes Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools the last Charlotte-area school district requiring masks.

North Carolina health officials still recommend that all schools require masks indoors, but the state has left the decision to local school boards. And more area school boards voted in November to make masks optional. That includes Gaston County, where masks had been required for students, employees and visitors up until now.

Masks became optional on Nov. 8 in Caldwell County Schools, as long as the three-week rolling average number of positive COVID-19 tests for students and staff is at 0.5% or less.

In Iredell-Statesville Schools, the board made masks optional on Nov. 8 and voted to end contact tracing in schools.

The Mooresville Graded School District voted on Nov. 9 to make masks optional for students in grades 7-12 unless the positivity rate reaches 1%, while students in K- 6th grades must continue to wear them.

Atrium Health infectious disease expert Dr. Christopher Ohl said during a news briefing about the latest COVID-19 variant, omicron, that now is not the time to relax mask requirements.

“December and January is when all of these respiratory viruses go around, particularly in our kids, particularly in a school setting,” Ohl said. “The masks are going to protect against COVID, they’re going to protect against flu, and they’re going to protect against some of these other viruses.”

Masks remain a requirement in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools with exceptions for students with medical, behavioral or developmental conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask indoors at schools.

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Catherine Welch is Assistant News Director at WFAE. She has led newsrooms at KUNC in Greely, CO, Rhode Island Public Radio in Providence, RI and WHQR in Wilmington, NC.