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State Health Officials 'Strongly Urge' Masks In Schools, But Won't Require Them

State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box, left, said local officials expressed a desire to decide for themselves whether to require masks in schools. (Brandon Smith/IPB News)

State health officials say they’re not mandating masks in K-12 schools amid a surge of COVID-19 in part because local officials told them they want to make those decisions.

Indiana is currently experiencing the sharpest spike of cases since the early days of the pandemic.

And State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said keeping kids in school requires multiple strategies.

Masking and vaccination, contact tracing and isolation and quarantine will allow us to achieve that goal.”

But Box added that Indiana is a state that prefers local elected officials to make decisions like whether to require masks and that she respects that desire.

READ MORE: Are COVID-19 Vaccines Safe For Kids? Here's What You Need To Know

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Box noted she’s ordering all schools to report any positive COVID-19 cases among students, teachers and staff.

“Let me be clear: a positive individual must isolate and cannot return to school or work until the isolation period is over,” Box said.

Because the delta variant is more contagious than other versions of COVID-19, Box said anyone considered a close contact of a person who’s tested positive should also get tested, even if they are vaccinated.

Contact reporter Brandon at or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.