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Some school districts bring back mask mandates to stem spread of COVID, flu and RSV

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(NEW YORK) — Several schools are bringing back mask mandates to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.

In New Jersey, two school districts said students will be required to wear face coverings indoors upon returning from winter break.

Paterson Public Schools, which serves abut 25,000 students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, said the new rule will go into effect starting Jan. 3.

“I know this is a relief to some, and a frustration to others. No matter what your position may be, I ask for your cooperation,” Eileen Shafer, Paterson school district superintendent, wrote in a letter to parents and guardians. “Please continue to maintain universal masking throughout our buildings and we encourage you to take all other precautions against the spread of the COVID-19, RSV, flu virus including frequent hand washing, avoiding large gatherings, and staying home when sick.”

Meanwhile, Camden City School District, with about 7,500 students between kindergarten and 12th grade, will implement required indoor masking for at least two weeks, through Jan. 17.

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“The New Jersey Department of Health has already reported an increase in COVID, flu, and RSV cases,” CCSD Superintendent Katrina McComb wrote in a letter to families. “Therefore, in an effort to be proactive and remain vigilant, all schools and offices will operate under a short mask mandate upon reopening.”

The moves come amid a rise in COVID-19 cases across the country. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, weekly cases have increased 309,272 to 402,525 over the last five weeks, although they have begun to decline recently.

Meanwhile, infections of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, and the flu are still high — but appear to have peaked in mid-November and mid-December, respectively, and are now declining, according to CDC data.

According to the CDC’s latest flu report, the cumulative hospitalization rate for influenza is more than four times higher at this point in the year thanx every season going back to 2010-2011, but the number of new admissions has declined for the third week in a row.

Schools in New Jersey are not the only ones bringing back masks. Earlier this month, the School District of Philadelphia announced students would be required to wear masks for the first 10 days after winter break.

“In an effort to be proactive in supporting healthy environments and maintaining in-person learning following students and staff returning from winter break, the District will implement mandatory masking from January 3 through January 13, 2023,” the district wrote in a release, according to local ABC affiliate WPVI.

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