Cleveland County school board votes to require masks for students, staff as COVID-19 cases surge

CLEVELAND COUNTY, N.C. — On Wednesday, the Cleveland County Board of Education voted to require masks for all students, staff members and visitors while inside school buildings.

School leaders said the policy change was due to the increase in COVID-19 cases.

The Cleveland County School Board had initially voted on July 26 to make masks optional for the upcoming school year.

The new school year is less than one week away, but the numbers in Cleveland County are surging.

The vaccination rate in the county is currently at 36%, but the New York Times reports that new cases are up 173%, according to their tracking system.

And students under 12 still cannot be vaccinated yet.

Back in July, school board member Danny Blanton told Channel 9 he is focused on the hundreds of calls he has received from concerned parents. He said he and a few other board members believe it’s time for students to return to school without masks.

Blanton stressed that he is not speaking for the whole board, just himself and the parents who have called him.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has advised school districts to require masks due to the spread of COVID-19.

(WATCH BELOW: Vaccinated teachers and students don’t need masks, CDC says)