Masks no longer required on school buses, CDC updates masking guidelines

NOW: Masks no longer required on school buses, CDC updates masking guidelines

South Bend, IND. --- The Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation announced on Friday that masks are no longer required for students taking the bus to school. This follows new guidelines from the CDC removing masking requirements on buses operated by public or private school systems. 

St. Joseph County currently falls into the medium level in Covid Community Levels, and with the CDC no longer requiring mask usage in low or medium level areas, the lifting of these restrictions show that cases are on a steady decline in Michiana.

“Our numbers have been falling very quickly, and so our case rates and our hospitalization rates are as low as they’ve been since last July; July and August timeframe, so before the school year even started," says Dr. Mark Fox from the Saint Joseph County Department of Health.

With Covid cases on the downfall in Michiana, some mandates are beginning to be lifted in some public places and schools. The CDC unveiled a number of updates to their Covid guidelines on Friday, specifically addressing the confusion about school buses being recognized as federal transportation.

“They unveiled this updated guidance that they’re no longer requiring masks on school buses," says Dr. Fox. “There was some confusion about the federal transportation mandate for airplanes and metro buses, and whether it actually applied to school buses or not.”

While the option to wear a mask in school buildings has already been established, buses provided some concerns for parents due to less room for social distancing. Despite this, shorter bus rides and students typically sitting in the same direction, this change doesn't prove to be more drastic than the one in the classroom.

“It’s probably not markedly different than a classroom, and if student’s are spending 6 or 8 hours a day in a classroom mask-free, then the masks on the bus seem to be the least of the problems," Dr. Fox says. "It’s the 7 or 8 hours in the classroom that pose the longer duration of risk, if there’s elevated risk.”

The lifted mask mandate comes at a good time, as cases are low in the state and warm weather is around the corner.

“On buses, if you can open the window you get great ventilation, and the risk goes almost zero," Dr. Fox advises. "Nobody’s real eager to do that when it’s single digits or something, but especially as we get to spring with nicer weather, there’s certainly great opportunity for ventilation on a bus.”

To see what the Covid Community Level is in your county, you can visit the CDC's website and find the recommended prevention steps for your county's level.

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