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Diocese of St. Augustine to require masks at schools in communities of high transmission

The mandate will stay in place unless a school's community has a positive test rate of 10% or less, according to the diocese.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — The Diocese of St. Augustine has issued a mask mandate for all students, teachers and staff at Catholic schools in area of high transmission of COVID-19.

The mandate will stay in place unless a school's community has a positive test rate of 10% or less, according to the diocese. At this time, all schools in the diocese will be under a mask mandate.

In addition, the diocese will limit visitors to schools, and those visitors must also wear a mask.

"We hoped to be 'mask optional' for this year; however, it is obvious from the COVID numbers in Northeast Florida that this is not possible right now," the diocese said in a letter to parents. "We hope that this will change in the near future."

While the diocese is not mandating people to get vaccinated, it is highly encouraged. 

Like the 2020-21 school year, families will continue to be notified of positive COVID-19 cases at their schools.

While schools will be working to prevent the spread of the virus, the diocese will not allow distancing learning for the 2021-22 school year. The diocese said this is to prevent strain on the teachers and because the State of Florida has not issued a waiver for distanced learning. 

While students must report to school, the diocese will offer virtual classes at the school.

"We need to continue to pray for the end of this pandemic and each other," the letter read. "It takes all of us to stop the spread of this virus, and being vaccinated is critical to stopping the spread of this illness and its taking more lives." 

Because Catholic schools are privately run, they are not affected by Gov. Ron DeSantis' executive order banning mask mandate at schools.