Henry County Schools adopts mask mandate as COVID-19 cases surge

Henry County Schools began the new academic year last week with no mandate to wear masks.

That changed Monday.

Superintendent Mary Elizabeth Davis told the district’s board of education that county coronavirus infections were surging and that health officials had advised the school system to undertake tougher mitigation strategies.

Those include reducing seating capacity for indoor extracurricular activities and public meetings and instituting a mask mandate. In-person attendance at school board meetings also will be cut by one-third.

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“This light atmosphere that I personally experienced and we experienced in July …. quickly shifted as we saw our community health and wellness take a transition,” she said.

Henry’s mask policy change followed others instituted in metro Atlanta as the delta variant increased coronavirus cases nationally and forced school systems throughout the country to rethink how they planned to handle face coverings.

At least six other metro area school systems — Atlanta, Clayton, Decatur, DeKalb, Douglas and Gwinnett — now mandate masks. Fulton County is requiring masks in some schools.

The Henry County Commission earlier this month declared a state of emergency after Piedmont Henry Medical Center, the community’s largest hospital, ran out of ICU beds because of COVID-19 cases.

“Just a week ago, the circumstance for our community drastically felt different, and I have a responsibility to make and take steps when those differences occur,” Davis said.

Mask policies in area school districts:

Atlanta Public Schools: required

Cherokee County: optional

City Schools of Decatur: required

Clayton County: required

Cobb County: optional but “strongly encouraged”

DeKalb County: required

Douglas County: required

Fayette County: optional

Fulton County: required in schools located in areas with high COVID-19 case counts

Gwinnett: required

Henry: required

Marietta City Schools: optional