Mask requirement shifts on Nov. 1
Posted on: Oct 29, 2021
Dear Holland Hall Families,
As of November 1, masks will be optional for students and faculty in all branches, regardless of vaccination status. This is in line with our current policy, which is based on background infection rates in the Tulsa community.
With guidance from members of our medical advisory panel, our own data, and the continued reduction of cases in Tulsa, we will be close enough to the ten per 100,000 threshold stated in our current policy to reasonably move to masks being optional. Even though we are slightly above ten, the infrequent cases on campus make it hard to justify remaining masked.
Here’s what we know right now from our first two months of on-campus data — and it’s all positive.
- We’ve had 12 student cases on campus since the first day of school.
- Resulting from contact tracing, only eight individuals have entered into our Covid protocols — the most accelerated, while safe, return-to-school policies among our peer schools in the southwest.
- As local background numbers increased and decreased, we found a loose correlation on campus. Since Tulsa cases per 100,000 have dropped in October, we’ve only seen three cases on campus.
- We believe we have had no instances of transmission on campus.
- We supported our healthcare workers and our local hospitals by doing all we could to lessen the chance for hospitalization for members of our community and their contacts.
- We feel comfortable moving into this stage of our masking policy because KN95s are more readily available and provide strong protections from aerosolized germs. They are there for those who would like the additional protection.
- Holland Hall follows the Oklahoma State Department of Health policies on vaccine requirements and exemptions. Currently, a Covid vaccine is not required to attend school.
As you have probably read, vaccines for children as young as 5 may soon be available. As I mentioned in August, our current masking policy is based on background rates of infection in our community (per 100,000 cases) and was meant to be temporary.
We know the likelihood of an unvaccinated child being hospitalized is about the same as someone older than 50 who has been vaccinated. It’s possible, but the risk is extremely low.
With guidance from members of our medical advisory panel, here is the longer-term path once the vaccine becomes available for younger children:
- Our current numbers-based policy will remain in effect until the vaccine is available to children 5 and older and a reasonable amount of time has passed for immunity to increase after the initial dose for those who choose to obtain it.
- Masks will then be optional for all students and faculty regardless of vaccination status, and will not change based on specific infection thresholds.
- Individual families and their relatives will have the needed protections, or at least access to that part of a layered approach to protection.
- I do believe it’s prudent to maintain that we could move back to temporary mask requirements in small pockets based on contact tracing or if the broader Covid situation warrants it. I want to be clear that we hope that’s not the case, but a more virulent or dangerous variant, for children especially, could make that possible.
- It’s worth noting that children are remarkably resilient — often much more so than we give them credit for. I do worry, however, for our younger students. They have been learning in a masked environment for quite some time and that has created its own set of issues.
Thank you, again, for your continued support of our community and the collective responsibility to care for one another. Holland Hall has weathered this storm well and will continue to carefully address issues as they arise. As has always been the case, I am more than happy to meet or speak on the phone to address any questions or concerns. We believe the path forward is a reasonable one and maintains our consistent stance to make data-driven decisions in our community’s best interest.