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Indiana health officials leaving school mask decision up to districts

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Posted at 12:57 PM, Jul 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-30 21:13:18-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Dr. Kristina Box, state health commissioner, says she is "strongly encouraging Hoosiers" to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new guidance.

"This change in guidance reflects the increase in COVID-19 activity that is being fueled by the delta variant," Box said. "These are now local decisions, but the guidance is universal. We all want to have a full return to in-person learning with minimal disruption and outbreaks."

That guidance includes recommending people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 wear masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging, and that vaccinated people should seek out a COVID-19 test three to five days after being exposed to a person who may have contracted the virus.

All Marion County residents, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status, are encouraged to wear masks in indoor public spaces, according to the Marion County Public Health Department.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the CDC is also recommending that everyone in K-12 schools wear masks, regardless of their vaccination status. That includes students, staff, and visitors.

Box says the Indiana State Department of Health is very strongly recommending that everyone in schools follow those recommendations, but they are leaving the decision on masking in schools up to individual districts.

"We are really trying to allow and have heard clearly from our local elected officials and from our schools that they want to make these decisions locally," Box said. "I think that the State of Indiana is very much a state that very much feels that the control should be in the control of the elected officials to make those decisions because they were elected by the people and for the people and so consequently, we are being respectful of that but I think we are being very clear about what we are recommending."

MORE: Gov. Holcomb urges Hoosiers to get vaccinated as delta variant surges in Indiana

Box said Hoosiers have been given the tools they need to get vaccinated and believes it comes down to personal responsibility for Hoosiers to make decisions.

"What we are dealing with is a new variant here, and until this particular virus has been around longer and more people have either been infected with it or vaccinated for it over and over again, we'll probably continue to see pockets of outbreak," Box said. "The recommendations are there to protect individuals ... the masks are the best way to decrease the transmission of that virus at this time."

MORE: 'Breakthrough' cases, high COVID-19 viral load cited in study that led to new CDC mask guidance

Box says because many people are vaccinated, it is safe to go to the Indiana State Fair this year, which was canceled last year due to the pandemic.

Dr. Lindsay Weaver, chief medical officer, said the state will follow FDA and CDC recommendations on possible booster shots.

Watch the full update from the Indiana Department of Health for July 30, 2021.