COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — More than 200 parents and educators in El Paso County have signed an open letter asking for an indoor mask mandate as students return to school this fall.
El Paso County Public Health "strongly recommends" masks be worn in all public indoor settings regardless of vaccination status, in alignment with CDC recommendations. However, masks are not mandatory.
Vanessa Munoz and Marion Hourdequin both teach at Colorado College and have kids enrolled in D-11 schools. They penned the open letter earlier this week asking the health department and local superintendents to take a more firm approach and mandate mask-wearing indoors at schools.
"I think we went from many precautions, distancing and outdoor time, and masks, and contact tracing to what seems like very little," Munoz said.
Their letter was also addressed to the superintendents of each of the public school districts in the county. The women point to rising COVID-19 cases numbers among children locally and reiterate the recommendations for universal mask-wearing by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC.
"I think, in this moment, what would be really valuable to our community is to be proactive rather than be reactive," Hourdequin said.
While masks are recommended by all local schools, no district currently mandates their use indoors. In order to comply with the White House's executive order on mask-wearing for travel, students must wear masks whenever they ride the bus.
Masks are also mandatory under another executive order regarding federal employees. That means masks are mandatory at schools located on Fort Carson and the US Air Force Academy.
On Thursday, Colorado Springs School District 11 updated its Return to Learn procedures to require masks for all students, staff, and visitors if the rate of COVID-19 infections reported by El Paso County Public Health passes the threshold of 200 cases per 100-thousand residents. It's currently at 152 cases per 100,000.
Marion and Vanessa believe without a mask mandate, not enough children will wear masks, and infections will spread.
"We don't want to look back and say, oh we thought it was small, now we realize it's big and we have a bunch of children that are in hospitals," Munoz said.