Valley News – Vermont to send 100,000 KN95 masks to schools

Posted: 01/29/2022 19:54:44

Modified: 01/29/2022 19:53:15

MONTPELIER — Vermont plans to ship more than 100,000 KN95 masks to schools over the next few weeks in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the state’s top education official said Thursday.

In an email to superintendents and independent school leaders, Vermont Secretary of Education Dan French said the state plans to distribute approximately 110,000 masks alongside rapid COVID-19 tests to school districts and state supervisory unions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said KN95s are among the most effective types of face coverings in preventing the spread of the virus.

Education Agency spokesman Ted Fisher said the distribution could be a one-time event. State officials have secured those masks now, he said, but may not be able to do so in the future.

“Of course, I don’t know what the future holds,” Fisher said. “So if we become more reserved for schools, we will potentially push them back in one way or another.”

The masks are adult-sized — meaning they may not fit younger students, but will likely fit staff members, high school students and at least some middle school students, according to Fisher.

Masks should be sent to all school districts and state supervisory unions, with some reserved for independent schools. Schools will receive a number of masks proportional to the size of their staff, Fisher said, with each school to receive at least 50.

In his email Thursday, French warned that school administrators “should not expect this distro to meet all masking needs.” He encouraged schools to buy more masks “on the open market” with federal aid funds.

Over the past month, state education officials have stepped up their distribution procedures.

As the contagious omicron variant hit Vermont in early January, authorities began sending weekly shipments of rapid COVID-19 tests to districts across the state.

Some local officials, faced with rising case numbers, complained that rapid tests were in short supply and, in some cases, had already expired.

But the Education Agency said that as the omicron push wanes schools should have enough tests for everyone. And in his Thursday email, French told schools that a test maker had extended the expiration date of some tests and Vermont schools could continue to use them.

“This is in line with AOE and Department of Health guidelines, and we generally encourage you to use all testing tools available to you,” French wrote.

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