WACO, Texas — Two more McLennan County school districts, Connally and McGregor, implemented mask mandates on Tuesday.
The Waco-McLennan County Public Health District said in a letter to schools on Friday that nearly 800 students in the area have tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the school year.
Starting Tuesday, McGregor ISD implemented a three-stage system. Since more than 2 percent of students in all schools have tested positive, they're starting at stage two. That means masks will be required for at least the next seven days, given that the positivity rate drops below 2 percent by then.
"It's obviously our hope that that number drops below two percent and we can return to some sense of normalcy," said McGregor superintendent James Lenamon.
Connally ISD reopened its doors Tuesday after closing for a week. The district lost two teachers to the virus in four days and closed for cleaning and testing.
"As educators, it is our duty to keep our students safe and healthy. We feel instituting a mask mandate is a step towards doing this," Connally superintendent Wesley Holt wrote in an email to parents.
Dr. Farley Verner, M.D., local health authority for the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, is urging other schools to at least strongly encourage masking.
"The real problem with transmission in schools comes from those people who are infected with COVID-19 and do not yet have symptoms," Verner said.
In a letter to schools, the district pointed out that just 50 students had tested positive at this point during the 2020-21 school year. This school year, that number was 774 students as of September 1.
"We have a terrible vaccination rate in children older than 12. Our only option is to do the thing that really cuts down on transmission and that's for everyone to wear a mask," Verner said.
The district is continuing to urge those that are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine to get one. To schedule a test or vaccine, you can visit the county's COVID-19 website.