BILLINGS - Citing a surge of omicron variant COVID-19 cases in the area, Superintendent Greg Upham said Thursdy the Billings Public Schools' mask mandate will remain in place for an indefinite period of time.
The mandate was set to expire on Jan. 17 for teachers and staff on an in-school learning day and on Jan. 18 for all students.
In a letter to parents and guardians, Upham said that no single metric forced his decision, but the district is monitoring these criteria in making its decision:
- Local health officials COVID-19 information updates.
- The total number of Yellowstone County (school age) active cases.
- The total number of Yellowstone County (all age) active cases.
- Current health care capacity.
- Yellowstone County positivity rates.
- Yellowstone County daily case counts per 1OOK.
- Total number of SD2 cases per individual school.
In the first week back from school, the district reported 161 COVID-19 cases, the most of any week this school year. Billings School District 2 only had 10 positive cases in the last week of December before the holiday break.
This week, the district already has 247 new COVID cases, and that's only through the first four weekdays, Upham told MTN News. He also said that teachers have covered for each other, sometimes juggling multiple classrooms, to help keep schools open.
Read Upham's full letter below: