Masks are no longer required on Houston ISD campuses and other district facilities, while officials at the city and county also have relaxed their COVID-19 restrictions amid a decline in cases and related hospitalizations across much of the region.
HISD, the largest school district in Texas, lifted its mask mandate Tuesday after requiring students, teachers, administrators and visitors to wear face coverings at all district-owned facilities since the start of the school year last August.
HISD’s COVID-19 dashboard showed 117 active cases as of Tuesday, with 97 among students and a total of 29 cases at schools in the Heights, Garden Oaks and Oak Forest areas. There were 22 student cases at Oak Forest Elementary, by far the most at any HISD campus.
“Our families, students and staff have shown incredible patience, resiliency and grace these past two years as we navigated the COVID-19 pandemic,” HISD Superintendent Millard House II said in a statement released by the district. “This virus is still circulating in our communities, but we have the tools to keep ourselves and each other safe.”
HISD’s mask requirement ended about a week after Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo lowered the county’s COVID threat level from its highest- to second-highest level. On the same day, Feb. 24, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that the city was suspending its mask requirement for employees and visitors to municipal buildings, citing a decline in the city’s positivity rate for COVID testing.
He said some city employees will still be required to wear masks when interacting with members of the public.
“I strongly encourage people who are not fully vaccinated or are immunocompromised to wear a face covering while entering or upon city premises, but doing so is not required,” Turner said.
In lowering the county’s threat level from red to orange, Hidalgo said there remains a significant and uncontrolled level of COVID transmission within the region and that unvaccinated residents should continue to wear masks, physically distance from others and avoid medium-sized and large gatherings.
Harris County Public Health reported 189 new cases on Tuesday, a significant decline from January, when at least 1,000 new cases reported on most days.
In the six zip codes served by The Leader - 77007, 77008, 77009, 77018, 77091 and 77092 - there were a total of 3,108 active cases as of Tuesday. There were more than 34,440 active cases across the county, where there has been a total of 870,817 cases and 7,214 deaths caused by COVID-19, with 829,123 patients having recovered.
“While we’re moving in the right direction, there are no guarantees we won’t see another wave in the future,” Hidalgo said. “My hope is that the on-demand availability of vaccines and treatments will help us to avoid another dangerous spike.”
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