With mask rule gone, what’s ahead for Columbia County kids?

Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 6:48 PM EDT
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EVANS, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Kids in Columbia County no longer have to wear masks at school. Many students could be seen leaving class Wednesday mask-free after the school board just announced to lift the requirement Tuesday night.

It is abundantly clear that cases in Columbia County schools have gone down significantly.

After analyzing COVID trends, we found that on Aug. 13, there were 103 positive cases in Columbia County schools. That then significantly increased to 506 positive cases Aug. 27. After the schools implemented a mask requirement, that number went down to 91 on Sept. 24. But is this all because of masks? And is it the right move to get rid of the mask requirement?

Kristen Banks’ daughter isn’t one of the kids you see filing out of school. Her and her daughter out with COVID. Her daughter came into contact with someone and they were never told.

“Because they were wearing masks, they don’t have to tell you. So there was no warning whatsoever,” said Banks.

She hopes the district will be more proactive with notifications and now that masks are no longer required there probably will be more contact notifications. As people not wearing masks are considered close contact.

The decision to get rid of masks came with mixed reviews, but doctors we spoke to tell us it’s a fair choice.

“Is it also reasonable to eliminate, or eliminate the mandate for the masks right now, given the fact that the numbers are lower? I would say that is also reasonable,” said Dr. Phillip Coule, vice president and chief medical officer at Augusta University Health.

Although it would be easy to assume the district’s numbers went down solely because of the mask requirement.

“You really have to be careful about how you interpret the numbers because you can easily come to the wrong conclusions,” he said.


Take a look at the data we pulled. The cases across Columbia County and in Columbia County schools are trending in the same direction. That means masks likely could have helped but cases could have also naturally been on the decline in the community after a peak.

“There’s not a great playbook for this. So, we’re all learning through this process,” said Coule.

There isn’t a special math formula and no rule book on making some calls.

We reached out to the Columbia County School System for an interview about changing the policy. A spokesperson said she would get back with us but never did. We did send some questions over email and never heard back, either.

As for the mask requirement being lifted on buses, despite the federal mandate in place, the Georgia Department of Education says it’s up to each district to talk to their lawyers about whether they’ll go against it or not.

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