Vermont plans to send over 100,000 KN95 masks to schools over the coming weeks in an effort to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, the state’s top education official said Thursday.
In an email to superintendents and independent school heads, Vermont Secretary of Education Dan French said the state plans to distribute about 110,000 of the masks alongside Covid-19 rapid tests to school districts and supervisory unions around the state.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said KN95s are among the most effective types of face coverings in preventing the spread of the virus.
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Agency of Education spokesperson Ted Fisher said the distribution may be a one-time event. State officials have secured those masks now, he said, but may not be able to do so in the future.
“Of course, I don’t know what the future holds,” Fisher said. “So if we get more earmarked for schools, we’ll push them out potentially this way or another.”
The masks are adult-sized — meaning they may not fit younger students, but likely will fit staff members, high school students and at least some middle school students, according to Fisher.
The masks are slated to be sent out to all school districts and supervisory unions in the state, with some set aside for independent schools. Schools will receive a number of masks proportionate to the size of their staff, Fisher said, with each school set to receive at least 50.
In his email Thursday, French warned that school administrators “should not expect that this distribution will fill all masking needs.” He encouraged schools to buy more masks “on the open market” with federal assistance funds.
Over the past month, state education officials have ramped up their distribution procedures.
As the contagious Omicron variant struck Vermont in early January, officials began sending weekly shipments of rapid Covid-19 tests to districts around the state.
Some local officials, faced with rising caseloads, have complained that rapid tests were in short supply and in some cases had already expired.
But the Agency of Education says that, as the Omicron surge wanes, schools should have enough tests to go around. And in his Thursday email, French told schools that a test manufacturer had extended the expiration date on certain tests, and that Vermont schools could continue to use them.
“This is in line with AOE and Health Department guidance, and we generally encourage you to use all testing tools available to you,” French wrote.
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