Floyd County Mask Mandate In The Hands of School Officials

Floyd County Mask Mandate In The Hands of School Officials


Earlier this afternoon, the Floyd County Commissioners issued a notice to hold an emergency meeting on Monday, August 9 at 6p at the Pinewood Government Center to discuss Dr. Thomas Harris’ mask mandate he issued last Wednesday for K-6 graders of Floyd County Schools. 

Just a few minutes, ago that meeting, was canceled followed by a notice from the Floyd County Health Department. 

“After working with the Floyd County Commissioners, and with regard to the new SEA 5 statute, Executive Order 03 is modified,” wrote Harris in a release. 

Dr. Harris is continuing to very strongly recommend that school agencies require the use of masks for in-school indoor education for grades K to 6.

His order was initially only going to be in place for 31 days. Harris said the mandate was issued because of ongoing concerns over the delta variant.

The mandate was set to go into effect Friday before it was put on hold.

Harris also said masks were very strongly recommended for grades 7 to 12.

“With this modification, each school system will be able to decide its course of action. The school systems will then report their decisions to the Health Department,” Harris noted in a release this afternoon. “The Floyd County Health Department stands ready to provide assistance and information in this process. The Centers for Disease Control, American
Academy of Pediatrics and the Indiana State Department of Health all strongly support the use of masks for every in-classroom student.”

The Delta Variant remains a significant threat to our community, Harris said.

“It is 225% more infectious and has 1000 times the viral load of the original COVID-19 strain,” according to Harris. “At this time vaccines are not approved for children under 12 years old. Research also shows that the elementary age group clearly benefits from in-
classroom instruction. Therefore, the public health response for this critical age depends on aggressive masking and mitigation measures to continue the best education modality for them.”

However, the State of Indiana nor the State Department of Health have issued any advisories or restrictions on Hoosiers regarding Covid-19. 

Harris said the most current modification is also in accordance with the Governor’s Executive Order 21-19(4), issued 29 July 2021.

The mandate was released by Harris, who is Floyd County’s Health Officer. 

With school starting this week around Indiana, the number of Covid-19 cases is on the rise again and officials are concerned with the CDC’s recent advice on mask-wearing for students and teachers, but with little local direction.

In fact, Floyd County has had more than 210 new cases of Covid-19 since August 1, with most of those coming in the last week. 

The Floyd County Commissioners were going to meet in an emergency session pursuant to the provisions of IC 5-14-1.5-5(d), which call for meetings to be called to deal with public health emergencies. 

According to Harris’ statement, the commissioners believed the mandate should not go into effect because of a new law that was passed in Indiana (SEA Bill 5) that requires county or city leaders to approve local health orders that are more stringent than a state public health order.

There is no current statewide public health order regarding Covid-19. Across the Hoosier state, all COVID-19 mandates have ended.

Gov. Eric Holcomb has left the decision about whether to issue new mandates at the local level to local leaders.

Harris did not elaborate on the decision by the commissioners, nor did the commissioners themselves issue a statement on the mandate.

Harris did reference the Governor’s Executive Order 21-19(4), which puts the authority of controlling Covid-19 into the hands of local schools. 

SEA Bill 5 was drafted during this year’s general assembly and took away the authority of local health departments to make restrictions and mandates in regards to Covid-19 without the authority of city councils or county commissioners. 

21_Decision Trees_7-26

school update 7.28.21