Hidalgo County issues mask mandate for area schools

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FILE – In this March 30, 2021, file photo, second grader Ernesto Beltran Pastrana puts on his face mask while attending class during the first day of partial in-person instruction at Garfield Elementary School in Oakland, Calif. Dozens of school districts around the country have eliminated requirements for students to wear masks, and many more are likely to ditch mask requirements before the next academic year. (Jessica Christian/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, File)

EDINBURG, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Hidalgo County has issued a mask mandate for all schools in the county.

Dr. Ivan Melendez, Hidalgo County Local Health Authority, based the decision on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The order will apply to students, staff and visitors to all public and private schools, said a release. The mask will be required regardless of vaccination status.

The order will be in effect immediately and will remain in effect for nine weeks.

However, the order does give school districts the ability to opt-out of the mandate.

“I have said consistently that my actions regarding this pandemic will be based in science so I commend Dr. Melendez for his recommendation aimed at keeping our school children safe,” Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez said. “We are seeing dramatic increases in the number of pediatric patients being admitted into our hospitals because of this disease and I support every effort to keep our children safe.”

The order also includes several exceptions, including anyone under age two, anyone who is consuming drinks or food, anyone exercising outdoors, and anyone with medical conditions. There is also a recommendation of physical distancing of at least three feet between students in a classroom.

The release adds that ten percent of Hidalgo County’s COVID hospital population is made up of pediatric patients under the age of 19.

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