Most Indiana students – and all adults – must wear masks at school as buildings prepare to reopen to in-person instruction.
Gov. Eric Holcomb said back-to-school season is part of why he also issued a statewide mask mandate for all Hoosiers.
“Kids should not be getting mixed messages throughout the day," Holcomb said. "When they leave school grounds, they need to see that everyone is doing what they’re doing – that best practices are best for all.”
The mask mandate will apply to students in grade three and up in school, with some exceptions – including sitting at their desks (if spaced six feet apart) and at outdoor recess, if social distancing.
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As schools reopen, the state is also providing guidance on how to do so as safely as possible. Family and Social Services Administration Secretary Dr. Jennifer Sullivan said that includes spacing desks as far possible, facing the same direction; barring birthday parties or other events that put students in close contact; redoing schedules so that a minimum number of students are close contacts; and grouping together younger students into "pods."
“Pods of kids that move through the day together will allow small groups to isolate, rather than an entire classroom or schools to close," Sullivan said. "The threshold to close a pod is one case and to close a classroom is two.”
The state's guidance also includes protocols schools should follow when someone tests positive. People who spent more than 15 minutes within six feet of the person who tests positive in the 48 hours before the positive test result (or when symptoms showed up) – known as "close contacts" – should quarantine at home for 14 days.
If any of those close contacts test positive, the process of identifying more people who should quarantine begins again.
The Holcomb administration did not set a threshold for when an entire school should close. They advise schools with multiple cases to work with state and local health departments on what steps to take.
The state will also hire more contact tracers to help track potential spread of COVID-19 as schools reopen.
CLARIFICATION: During the press conference, officials said students spaced three to six feet apart would not have to wear masks. This was later corrected by the governor's office, which said the executive order will say six feet.