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ST. LOUIS – Despite COVID cases surging in the St. Louis region, multiple St. Louis County school districts are moving forward with votes on plans to end mask mandates. One major district approved a plan Wednesday night. The other two are set to hold votes Thursday night.

Crestview Middle School will be the site of the Rockwood School Board meeting Thursday night. There, the largest district in St. Louis County will consider a plan to make masks optional. The Lindbergh School Board will also meet Thursday night to consider a similar measure.

On Wednesday night, the Parkway School Board unanimously approved a plan that will make masks optional in that district starting on January 18. The board will vote again on the measure during the week of January 10 after looking at the latest health trends. Then the board will vote on the plan every 30 days.

If the Rockwood board approves its plan, then masks will be optional there when students return from winter break on January 3.

The measure that the Lindbergh School Board will consider Thursday night would make masks optional there starting on January 5.

The Mehlville School District has plans to go mask optional for all grades on January 17.

All of these plans have COVID infection thresholds where a school would return to required masking for a period of time if that particular school reaches a certain number of COVID infections.

These school district moves come as the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force released a statement urging everyone in the community, including children, to wear masks when indoors regardless of vaccination status. The task force said COVID is circulating at significant levels that the area hasn’t seen in months. Because vaccination rates remain generally low and the majority of children in the community remain unvaccinated, the task force says “a large part of the population remains susceptible to the virus.”

The task force also points out that the majority of children in the area remain unvaccinated. The latest task force figures show 23 children under 18 are hospitalized with COVID. Seven of them are in ICUs. That’s the highest number of kids in ICU beds in three months. Pediatric ICU cases have gone from one child to now seven in less than a week. 

Meanwhile, St. Louis County Health Department officials said COVID case counts are rising sharply among students and staff at St. Louis County schools.

A health department report released Wednesday shows that for the week ending December 4, staff cases were at their highest level and student cases were at their second-highest level for the current school year.