Masked no more

The Fairbanks school district is loosening its face mask requirement. 

The Fairbanks school district announced Thursday that people age 16 and older no longer need to wear face masks or social distance at schools and at district events.

The announcement comes after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed public health guidance for vaccinated people on Thursday.

Additionally, the Fairbanks North Star Borough and the University of Alaska Fairbanks are working on updating their rules around Covid-19, and the city of Fairbanks is looking at lifting the mask requirement for vaccinated city employees, according to a spokeswoman.

The school district put out an announcement loosening its Covid-19 protocols within hours of the CDC announcement.

“At this time, the district will not be requesting or requiring information from staff, parents, students or community members regarding vaccination status,” the announcement stated. “District administration will coordinate with schools to adjust guidelines for activities and events at the various grade levels.” 

Elementary and middle school students are required to continue with masking and social distancing guidelines for the rest of the school year. The last day of school is Thursday.

“It may be helpful, especially at elementary schools, for staff to continue to wear masks when around students to model the expectation and keep routines consistent through the end of the year,” said the announcement from Superintendent Karen Gaborik. “The board of education is scheduled to address Covid-19 mitigation measures for the 2021-2022 school year at their June 1 regular meeting.”

Masks are required in all borough facilities, many of which are locked to the public and serving people by appointment only. Borough Mayor Bryce Ward said in an email that his administration will work to incorporate the new guidance into borough Covid-19 mitigation plans.

“Updates to our mitigation plans have been taking a week or two for development and implementation. The changes will require thorough review, specifically on how to identify vaccinated versus unvaccinated individuals and adapting those measures into our current plans,” Ward wrote in an email.

Masks are required at the Patrick B. Cole City Hall in common areas. Teal Soden is the communications director at the city of Fairbanks.

“The mayor does support lifting mask requirements for vaccinated city employees, but we have not been asking employees to disclose if they have been vaccinated or not, so there are some details to work out before changing any current rules,” she wrote in an emailed answer to questions.

UAF requires masks indoors, except in private residences and when people are alone in offices, and outdoors when social distancing is not possible.

“The policy remains in place for now, but we are reviewing it in light of the new guidance,” wrote Public Information Officer Marmian Grimes in an emailed answer to questions. “That includes working to better understand guidelines around verification of vaccination.”

Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7545. Follow her at twitter.com/FDNMborough.