Mask mandate

 (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The Concordia Parish School Board held a special meeting today at noon by Zoom to discuss a new mask mandate.

Concordia Parish Superintendent Toyua Watson requested the meeting, sending the following e-mail message to each board member and parish school officials.

“Today I write to share with you the latest Covid updates for our State, Region, and Parish. I wanted each of you to be aware that I am recommending to the Board to reinstate masks for 3-weeks after our return to school,” Watson wrote. “I know this may not be a popular decision. However, I am choosing to recommend wearing masks based on current data and genuine compassion for every child and staff member in our district.”

The meeting was held after this week’s Sentinel went to press. The outcome is on the Sentinel website.

Watson added, “The data attached indicated that after Thanksgiving, there was an increase in Concordia Parish of 17.4%. The number decreased to 6% after December 8, 2022. However, yesterday (Monday), Trinity had 15 positive cases in a 12-hour window and the numbers in our region are continuously rising. Please take a moment and review the data for yourself. I am asking that we all only think of children when we review this information, and I am asking for your support for the recommendation to wear masks for the next three weeks. This will assist with doing our part to reduce the spread of any strain of Covid.”

The Louisiana Department of Health announced that as of December 26, 449 people in Louisiana are hospitalized with COVID-19 – a figure that has doubled in the last week. The last time the LDH reported this many COVID-19 hospitalizations was mid-October, as we came down from our fourth and then-worst COVID-19 surge. Eighty percent of people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 are not fully vaccinated. 

A total of 9,545 new COVID-19 cases out of 59,139 new tests have been reported to the state since December 23. The testing data do not include results from at-home tests. The Louisiana Department of Health will resume updating the COVID-19 dashboard on Monday, December 27. 

Another 1,231 people in Louisiana have been reinfected with COVID-19 in the same time frame. LDH does not include reinfections on its dashboard. Information is still emerging, but Omicron includes multiple mutations across the SARS-CoV-2 genome. Emerging data show this new variant is more transmissible than previous strains and that Omicron may carry an increased risk of reinfection compared to other variants of concern. 

Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant. However, breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are likely to occur. The Omicron surge further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters. 

In light of this rapidly evolving situation and because families may be traveling and gathering ahead of New Year’s Eve, LDH is urging everyone to follow public health guidance to stay safe.

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