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This Georgia school district is lifting its mandatory mask policy

The district superintendent said although the area hasn't attained a "moderate" COVID transmission rate yet, what they've achieved is "close enough."

GRIFFIN, Spalding County — One Georgia school district is lifting its mask mandate in the wake of COVID-19 vaccines finally being widely available for young children.

According to a statement from Griffin-Spalding County Schools, masks will no longer be mandatory for children attending schools in the district starting Monday, Nov. 15.

"A key indicator in determining when the district would be able to reverse the mask policy has been the county’s transmission rate," the statement reads.

Leaders with the district decided to implement a mask mandate during the first week of classes following a "significant increase" in COVID cases. The district said although masks will no longer be mandatory, staff, students and visitors are still strongly encouraged to wear one. 

The district said the transmission rate in Spalding County sat at nearly 190 cases per 100,000 over 14 days in early August, but now the area has seen improvement with transmission rates hovering around 65 cases per 100,000 people. 

"The goal, since September, has been to reach a 'moderate' transmission rate," the district said.

The school district considers a "moderate transmission rate" to be 50 cases per 100,000. Though the area has not yet attained the goal rate, the superintendent said the transmission rate they've achieved is "close enough."

"This is not the measure of 50 per 100,000 that we were striving for but I believe that we are close enough to our target to reverse our mandatory mask policy," Superintendent Keith Simmons said in the statement. "With the holiday season upon us, I’m asking that you remain vigilant in your mitigation practices. I’m asking that you assist us in helping to keep our students and staff safe while also keeping our schools open for in-person learning."

Leaders with the school system are planning to revisit the need for a school district-wide mask mandate should rates of COVID-19 infections spike again.