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Catholic schools in Southwest Florida will mandate masks for students and staff while indoors

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Posted at 11:45 AM, Aug 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-06 20:21:55-04

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA — Catholic school parents are feeling like they’ve been thrown for a loop after a recent change in school policy.

A letter from the Diocese of Venice in Florida was sent out last night, telling parents that mask usage by students will be mandatory this school year. However, it’s creating some backlash from some parents.

“We’re doing our sacraments through this school, we were married in that church- it’s very important for our generation to stay in that school and we’re hoping to do so.”

Just a few weeks ago, those parents with students enrolled in catholic schools under the Diocese of Venice were notified that masks would be optional. But just last night, a new letter was sent out notifying parents that all schools would be moving back to mandatory mask usage like last year.

“We were a little bit disappointed and I have to look a little bit optimistic in that right but then my phone started blowing up with our dad’s group," said James Didio, Children attend St. Francis Xavier School. "All the dads are saying, ‘Did you read your email?’ So with that being said, there was a lot of dismay and a lot of people were like. ‘I’m pulling out’ or we have to go somewhere else. We’re the only school in town doing this.”

In fact, the policy is county wide. In that letter, the diocese states that, ‘masks will be required, temporarily, indoors in catholic schools in a county with a positivity rate of 10% or greater. When the positivity rate falls below 10%, masks will continue to be optional.’

“We’re so close to a school day, a lot of these places are saying, ‘Hey, we’re full up until we get some movement,’" said Didio. "It really limits our ability to move on if we wanted to and it doesn’t really give us a lot of options which, in some ways is okay and in some ways it’s- you know- it’s bad.”

The recent policy comes as Covid-19 positivity rates are rising in counties like Lee County. Catholic schools within the county, like Saint Francis Xavier school, will be masking up for the first day of school... at least, for now.

“We were enjoying a little bit of taking our masks off and looking each other in the face again a few weeks ago but now things have changed," says Angela D’Alessandro, a pediatrician. "We have this new variant of Covid, the Delta variant. It’s a lot more transmissible, it’s a lot more contagious, people are getting sick again. So we’re going to put our masks back on.”

D’Alessandro is a pediatrician, having worked in the field for about 20 years. She says last year she only had one case of influenza, something linked to last year’s mask usage. Not having those same masks can spread diseases more freely.

“Until they’re eligible for a vaccine- which could be as early as fall 2021 or 2022- it’s important they take precautions and that they are able to get an education and go together and come together safely, for now at least in our current climate with this delta variant, that is with masks,” she said.

Meanwhile, Didio says they’ll continue exploring other options. But if they can’t find another school, they’ll ride it out with St. Francis Xavier.

“Last thing I want to do is pull out," Didio said. "We love the teachers, we love the students’ life long friends for these guys at 8-years-old, right? We don’t want to leave. What we want to do is hope for a better tomorrow and hope that we can get past this without having to make that decision of moving on.”

The original story appears below.

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According to a letter that was sent to Southwest Florida parents, all Catholic schools in Southwest Florida will mandate masks for students and staff while indoors for the start of the school year.

The letter states the rule will be in place as long as the test positivity rate in that school's county is above 10 percent.

Currently all Southwest Florida counties are above 10% positivity, which means masks will be required indoors in all Catholic schools by students and staff.

More COVID-19 data for Southwest Florida can be found here: COVID-19 Weekly Situation Report:

The letter also states that when the positivity rate falls below 10%, masks will continue to be optional.

Diocese of Venice in Florida August letter for masks

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