Sarasota Schools suspended its emergency mask policy on Monday, which required everyone to wear masks unless they had a note from a medical professional.By Casey Albritton

SARASOTA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – Sarasota Schools suspended its emergency mask policy on Monday, which required everyone to wear masks unless they had a note from a medical professional. Now masks are optional.

Sarasota County district leaders say if the positivity rate in the area is lower than 8% for three days in a row, then masks are optional. A chart on the district’s website shows between September 23 and 25, the positivity rate has stayed between 4% and 6%.

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For Jessica Hensley, a parent in Sarasota County Schools, the new optional mask policy is something she had been hoping wouldn’t happen.

“The optional mask policy is still playing with fire. Kids aren’t the most conscious about washing their hands and covering their mouth when they cough,” said Hensley.

She says masks should be required so everyone is protected from COVID-19.

“Kids can actually be bringing that home too to their grandparents who may have a compromised immune system,” said Hensley.

The district previously required masks but allowed for a medical opt-out, but now that the positivity rate has been lower than 8% for three consecutive days, that policy is suspended. District leaders say if the positivity rate goes above 10% at any time, then the mask mandate will be re-implemented.

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“The last think I want is to have him come home sick,” said Hensley.

But on the other hand, parent, Gina Cassa, says she’s glad masks are optional now.

“I think it should be up to the parent to make that choice. Anyone that wants their child to wear a mask, nobody’s stopping them,” said Cassa.

Pinellas County and Sarasota Counties both have optional mask policies now and Cassa says all districts in the Tampa Bay Area should follow suit. District leaders say they will continue to monitor COVID-19 cases in Sarasota County.

“They aren’t able to socialize like they used to, they are becoming very withdrawn. You really need to see people’s smiles every day,” said Cassa.

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District leaders say they are strongly encouraging that students and staff wear masks.