PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Some students in Rhode Island are saying goodbye to their masks for the first time since 2020 on Monday.
Rhode Island’s mask mandate for K-12 schools has been officially lifted. Gov. Dan McKee formally made the announcement last month, citing that COVID-19 trends have continued to improve and he is working with R.I. Department of Health Interim Director Dr. Jim McDonald to move the state from a pandemic to an endemic.
Local school districts now have the power to set their own mask policies since the executive order has expired.
More than a dozen school districts in Rhode Island are now recommending, but not requiring, masks moving forward including in East Providence, Pawtucket, Portsmouth and Warwick.
Now the choice on whether to mask up in the classroom is left to the parents and while opinions are mixed, some parents told 12 News they’re glad the decision is now in their hands.
“Everyone wants to get back to normal but the fact of the matter is, I have relatives with lung issues and I’m still afraid to pass this onto one of them,” Lora Midgley said, whose child goes to school in Pawtucket.
“I think the kids need the normalcy, it’s been really tough for them I had a kid graduate when covid first started– I had a kid graduate when covid first started and it was a hard time for them,” Stephanie O’Connell said, whose child goes to school in Barrington. “Being able to talk to each other and listen to each other and see mouths move, I think it’s great.”
Providence schools will continue requiring masks, according to school leaders due to low vaccination rates.
The state continues to ramp up efforts to get students vaccinated by holding more clinics in districts or schools where vaccination rates are lower than 20%.
Providence Public Schools will be holding vaccination clinics around the district for students, and they can sign up online.
This week is also “high school vax week” where vaccination clinics will be held at all nine district high schools.
Every student planning to receive a shot must schedule an appointment during the times available at their school. Students under 16 must have written consent from their parents or guardians before getting vaccinated.
Two weeks ago, McDonald said those who have completed the primary vaccine series are six times less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19. Those who have received the booster dose are 55 times less likely to get hospitalized compared to someone who hasn’t gotten the shot.
In Massachusetts, schools in New Bedford and Fall River are making masks optional starting Monday, joining a number of schools in the state where the mask requirement was lifted last week.