RI lawmakers urge McKee to issue statewide mask mandate in schools


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Dozens of Rhode Island lawmakers are calling upon Gov. Dan McKee to issue a statewide mask mandate in schools for the upcoming academic year.

McKee said earlier this week he won’t make face coverings mandatory in schools and will instead allow individual districts make the call, despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that students and faculty wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.

In a letter to the governor, 34 Rhode Island lawmakers urged him to issue an executive order making masks mandatory in schools, citing a spike in COVID-19 cases statewide and the continued spread of the highly-contagious delta variant.

“The decision of whether or not to require masking in schools is of vital importance to the health and well-being of Rhode Islanders,” the letter reads. “Therefore, any actions must be guided by experts in the field of public health and epidemiology and should not be delegated to municipal school departments.”

Tom McCarthy, the head of Rhode Island’s COVID-19 Response Team, said the spike in COVID-19 cases in schools across the southern parts of the country should be enough of a reason to issue a mask mandate.

“[We’re] concerned now, given some of the conversations we’ve seen at school committees over the last week, that we’re not being direct enough about the masking requirements,” McCarthy said on Friday’s taping of Newsmakers.

While he’s not issuing a statewide mandate, McKee previously said he expects school districts to follow the CDC’s most recent guidelines.

“Some of our young people do not meet the age requirement to get vaccinated and we have to use all tools available to us to keep them safe,” he said.

McCarthy believes McKee hasn’t completely ruled out issuing a mask mandate in schools, adding that the governor will likely look “at that first month of school specifically and re-evaluate from there.”

“This is not going to be how it looks for the whole school year,” McCarthy said.

12 News reached out to the governor’s office regarding the letter but has not yet heard back.

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