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Philadelphia School District students, staff and faculty are no longer permitted to only wear cloth masks inside school buildings. Photo Credit: Fluxfactory/Getty Images
Philadelphia School District students, staff and faculty are no longer permitted to only wear cloth masks inside school buildings. Photo Credit: Fluxfactory/Getty Images

Cloth masks are no longer accepted in Philly public schools

The new mandate requiring Philly students and staff to wear disposable, KN95 or N95 masks goes into effect Monday, Feb. 7.

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As of Monday, Feb. 7, Philadelphia School District students and staff will no longer be allowed to solely wear cloth masks in the classroom. 

In a letter sent out to parents and families Feb. 2, the School District announced its updated health and safety protocols, based on recent guidance from the Centers of Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Students and staff who choose to wear a cloth mask should double mask with a cloth mask over a 3-ply disposable mask, which SDP [School District of Philadelphia] currently provides. For those who choose to wear a single mask, a 3-ply disposable mask is preferred over a cloth mask alone, or they can also choose to wear a well-fitted KN95, KF94, or N95 mask,” the letter signed by Superintendent Dr. William Hite and Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, reads. 

To accommodate the new guidelines, all Philly District schools and offices will be provided a supply of adult KN95 masks to distribute to staff who may want them. 

"We are simply following the guidelines from the public health experts who obviously know best how we can stay safe to continue to have in-person learning available to our students, which is the best way for our children to learn," a School District of Philadelphia spokesperson said.

In an interview with 6ABC, Temple Health physician and family medicine specialist Dr. Delana Wardlaw, noted why this is a necessary step to take. 

“We do know with this omicron variant there were a large number of children affected and we still know there is a large percentage of children under 12 that are not vaccinated," she said.

According to data from the PDPH Vaccination Dashboard, less than half (49.5%) of Philly children under the age of 12 have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. 

In addition to getting vaccinated, proper masking while indoors and among crowds has proven to be another effective way to protect yourself and each other from the virus. 

"We've done a very effective job in keeping the transmission rate in our schools down but also keeping our staff and students safe so we can have in-person learning," said Philadelphia School District spokesperson Monica Lewis in a statement.

Temple University updated its own mask requirements in a similar fashion last month, as well. 

While positive cases in Philadelphia are seeing a drop, Dr. Bettigole noted that the city is likely to keep its mask mandates and other restrictions in place for the foreseeable future.

“If you think about where we are with this particular wave and case rates right now, we're probably several months away from a place where we will have the kind of safety to drop all the current restrictions,” she said.

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