Wearing of face masks in schools mandatory

BY KAITHREEN CRUZ

2022-09-23T07:00:00.0000000Z

2022-09-23T07:00:00.0000000Z

The Manila Times

https://manilatimes.pressreader.com/article/281543704788586

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THE Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) said face masks should be worn by learners, teachers or faculty members, and other school personnel in classrooms, laboratories, and other school rooms to mitigate Covid-19 transmission. The directives are contained separately in DepEd Order 41 and CHEd Memo 9. However, wearing of face masks is voluntary in open spaces and outdoor areas where physical distancing may be observed, in line with Executive Order 3 signed by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. The DepEd emphasized that schools should ensure the availability of face masks, especially for learners who may come to school not wearing one. “A face shield may be used in lieu of a face mask for specific situations where removal of face mask is warranted, such as activities requiring the entire face of an individual to be visible. During these specific activities, safe distance, adequate ventilation, and proper hygiene shall be strictly ensured,” it added. The Education department also reiterated that vaccination is among the most effective strategies to prevent severe Covid-19 infection and deaths as it encouraged learners, teachers and non-teaching personnel to get their shots. “Schools are enjoined to take active participation in the [Department of Health] PinasLakas campaign, a demand generation campaign for Covid-19 vaccination, which adopts a settings based approach,” it said. However, DepEd pointed out that a “no-discrimination” policy is implemented in managing personnel and learners, regardless of their vaccination status. All teaching and non-teaching personnel and learners are allowed to attend in-person classes. Meanwhile, the CHEd indicated three instances when non-wearing of face masks may be allowed: When eating or drinking in designated areas; participating in sports in well-ventilated venues; and practicing outdoor activities where physical distancing can be maintained. “In case of any changes in the guidelines for wearing of face masks by the national government, such shall be observed by the higher education institution,” the CHEd noted. It also emphasized that face masks should be worn in indoor private or public establishments, including public transportation by land, air and sea. Similarly, it said that masks should be worn in outdoor settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained. Meanwhile, the DepEd also indicated in its memo that school-specific surveillance plans must be established to identify and report Covid-19 case clusters and unusual health events, coordinate closely with local epidemiology and surveillance units for a case and cluster investigation and confirmatory testing and management, and monitor absences to determine if higher than usually recorded and investigate if the cause of absences is attributed to a similar event. The DepEd Order also stated that “DepEd offices and schools shall not be held liable if a teaching or non-teaching personnel or learners should turn Covid-19 positive.”

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