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Chippewa Falls School District shifts to 'mask-required' policy as COVID-19 cases soar

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CFAUSD

The CFAUSD's shift from a COVID-19 'mask-optional' to a 'mask-required' policy within the first three weeks of the 2021-22 school year comes after a skyrocketing of local coroanvirus cases.

The Chippewa Falls Area Unified School District is changing its tune on their current COVID-19 policy.

The district now will require facial masks at all times while indoors district-wide. Superintendent Jeff Holmes said this measure is the result of the recent data on coronavirus cases in the area made available to district personnel.

“As explained on numerous occasions, CFAUSD cannot be perceived as an organization that is a major contributor to community spread,” Holmes said. “While we certainly are cognizant of, sympathize for, and empathize with the issues, pro and con, associated with mask-wearing in school settings, we believe it is necessary at this time. Everyone’s patience, understanding, and cooperation with this determination are greatly appreciation. Based upon everything we have experienced over the past year and a half, masks will help us stay in-person longer than doing otherwise and a major goal for us is to remain in-person as long as possible.”

The change in policy comes after the district received push back from neighboring districts for its “mask-optional” policy leading into the 2021-22 school year. However, the CFAUSD has seen a recent uptick in isolated or quarantined staff/students in recent weeks, which has directly led to the change in masking policies.

In the week ending on September 10 the elementary schools in the district had 67 individuals isolated or quarantined (+64 from the prior week), the middle schools had 76 individuals isolated or quarantined (+63 from the prior week) and the high schools had 83 individuals isolated or quarantined (+67 from the prior week) due to complications with COVID-19.

This only increased in the week ending on September 17, as the elementary schools had 167 individuals isolated or quarantined (+100 from the prior week), the middle schools had 123 individuals isolated or quarantined (+47 from the prior week) and the high schools had 192 individuals isolated or quarantined (+109 from the prior week).

As of Monday, the CFAUSD has 66 total reported cases of students currently infected with COVID-19, which has led to 482 total students currently being contact-traced/isolated/quarantined by the Chippewa County Department of Public Health.

“During the 2020-21 school year, only two outbreaks in the county could be attributed to CFUSD settings,” Holmes said. “As of today (Monday) and only three weeks into the 2021-22 school year, we believe it is necessary to let everyone know that we were officially notified by the county that three outbreaks are currently attributable to CFAUSD…I now believe that we need to add mask-wearing to Level 3 to determine if that additional mitigation measure alone can make a difference in reducing spread in our settings.”

In cooperation with the CCDPH, and because of the shift to masks-required, CCDPH’s quarantine protocols will become less restrictive for CFAUSD. This means that 7, 10, or 14 day provisions may now be applied to all grade levels, rather than the 14-day only approach, and the social distancing footage provision is reduced from six feet to three feet, in making contacting tracing determinations. This is estimated to reduce the number of those contact traced by approximately 50%. Any designations of contact tracing made by CCDPH prior to Monday will remain so.

Continued updates from the CFAUSD on the district’s COVID-19 protocols will be made available in the coming weeks.

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