A big increase in COVID-19 cases leads one school to require masks for all students and staff.
Masks will be mandatory at Albertville City Schools starting Thursday, only four days after classes began with optional masking.
As of Wednesday, 17 students and five faculty members in the Albertville City Schools system have tested positive for COVID-19. Although they started the year mask optional, these numbers, along with recommendations from local health officials, led to the mask policy change.
"We want to keep our students in school. We want to make sure that our students get back to normal. We didn't make this decision without carefully considering all factors," says Dr. Boyd English, superintendent for Albertville City Schools.
Dr. English says traditional learning is their main goal for the school year, so if masks are needed to make that happen, so be it.
"We feel like our students need to be in traditional classroom settings for the entire year and we're dedicated and committed to making that happen," explains Dr. English.
This change in protocol comes as local health leaders are encouraging everyone to mask up.
"Because of the high transmissibility of the virus, we have to mask. And I am sorry to tell us that, but we have to mask," says CEO of Crestwood Medical Center Dr. Pam Hudson.
Their mask recommendations include guidelines for children, as many of them can only rely on masks since they are ineligible for the vaccine.
"If you feel strongly that kids belong in school, and I feel that, I think it's important that we, that many, many children have that opportunity. Supporting mask wearing is a vehicle to keep them in school," says CEO of Huntsville Hospital, Jeff Samz.
However, Dr. English is hopeful masks will only be a temporary necessity.
"Three weeks from now we're very hopeful that we'll be able to remove the mask requirement and get back to normal in that aspect as well," says Dr. English.
Even though the school system had to backtrack on their mask requirements the same week they started, Dr. English thinks they made the right decision to start with masks optional as it gave them some real data on how masks are impacting their students.
Dr. English plans on revisiting mask guidelines the first week of September.