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Sarasota Schools Stop Requiring Masks. Will Other Area Districts Follow?

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Rick Bowmer
The Florida Channel
School board officials encourage everyone to continue to wear a face mask when indoors to help keep the positivity rate below 8%.

The positivity rate for COVID-19 within Sarasota County dropped below 8% for three consecutive days, and masks are now optional. The mask requirement will reactivate if the positivity rate goes above 10%.

Sarasota Schools will no longer require students and staffers to wear masks.

The district notified parents and employees on Sunday that the community's percentage of cases was below 8 percent for three consecutive days, a threshold it had to make masks optional.

One local advocacy group, Stop the Spread, SRQ, wants the mask requirement to continue, said Paulina Testerman, the organization's co-founder.

“So we're relieved that our numbers are going down,” she said. “We feel that masking has been a contributing factor to bringing our COVID numbers down.”

“It does not define why the numbers are going down. We understand the trends of COVID. We understand that it was supposed to peak and then it's supposed to drop. But masking can't hurt our COVID numbers, it's going to only help."

Testerman said it would have been safer to continue the mask requirement.

"Ideally, in a perfect world, we would recommend masking, continually until those numbers are far lower."

It's unclear if other school districts in the region with mask mandates will reconsider.

Hillsborough County has extended its mask mandate through Oct. 15. Polk County Schools made masks mandatory on Sept. 8. Pinellas County Schools are not requiring masks.

Sarasota County Schools will reinstate a mask mandate if cases rise above 10 percent.

The district still recommends students wear masks while indoors to help keep the positivity rate low.

Bailey LeFever