Some schools ditching masks as COVID testing sites increase

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LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Schools across Pennsylvania ditching masks today as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

COVID testing sites are also popping up in our region ahead of the holidays.

“We have about 87 cases in the last 36 days and we hadn’t had 87 cases from the entire first quarter of school,” Hanover Area School District Superintendent Nathan Barrett said.

Masks are still required in the Hanover Area School District. Barrett says the surge of COVID-19 cases within the school district is just one of several reasons the district is keeping the mask mandate in place.

On Friday the Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out the mandate across the state. The Hanover Area School District will re-evaluate their COVID-19 protocols in mid-January.

“We will see what our community health looks like at that point. As of right now using our data specific to our district, it is not a time to retreat at this point,” Barrett said.

Because of the Supreme Court Justices’ decision, it is now up to each school district to determine if a mask mandate is necessary.

Meanwhile COVID-19 cases continue to rise across our region as many plan to gather for the holidays.

“We knew two weeks after Thanksgiving we would have a spike. Some of the variants coming out are a little bit more contagious, so with people being more together for the holidays and stuff, the numbers are up. Hospitals are starting to feel it. We just want people to be safe and get tested,” Luzerne County Emergency Management Agency director Lucy Morgan said.

A free drive-up COVID testing site opened Monday in Wilkes-Barre. It’s located in the shopping plaza on the coroner of South Main and Academy Streets. Testing is available to everyone. You do not have to be experiencing symptoms to be tested.

Eyewitness News found those getting tested are concerned about the rise in cases in Luzerne County.

“It’s concerning. I just want to get back to normal you know. It’s a stressful time with the holidays and it just puts more stress on people,” Mike Wasko said.

The testing site is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday through December 22nd. Health officials are urging the community to stop by to stop the spread.

“Especially if they show any symptoms. Because unfortunately some of the symptoms are the same as COVID, the flu, the common cold. Just for peace of mind. It’s free, there’s little or no waiting. We are just trying to do a service to the community,” Morgan said.

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