HOUSTON COUNTY, Ala. (WDHN) — In a joint press conference on Thursday morning, Houston County Schools and Dothan City Schools announced a mask mandate for students, teachers, and staff beginning on Friday, August 27.

According to Brandy White, the Superintendent of Houston County Schools, and Dr. Dennis Coe, Superintendent of Dothan City Schools, the decision isn’t political but simply because the data shows enforcing masks will keep more students in school buildings.

The mandate goes into effect on Friday and will remain until positivity rates and close contact numbers go down. Both superintendents said they must feel like it’s safe before considering allowing students and teachers to go mask-less.

“I feel in my heart it was the right decision for our students and given those numbers I think I would be foolish, I wouldn’t be living up to my responsibility if I didn’t pay attention to those numbers and make a call based on that,” White said.

According to White, since August 6th, 2021, Houston County Schools has recorded a total of 381 positive COVID cases and have isolated 983 students, due to close contact.

Since August 17th, Coe said his Dothan City School had a total of 70 positive COVID cases and has isolated around 300 students.

They both said without enforcing a mask mandate, these numbers will continue to increase interrupting school for all of their students. They agreed when looking at Enterprise City Schools’ numbers their cases are much lower and they believe this is due to a mask mandate they enforced at the beginning of the school year.

They say they will continue to monitor the data but for now, Coe said teachers, staff, and students under 16 will most likely have to remain masked for the year.

“We’ve got to make some changes,” Coe said. “Under the rules, we have to operate under, an individual who is masked at a time of exposure will not have to go home and isolate for ten days. They will not have to go home and isolate for ten days, that will keep them in school longer and also protect them and the individuals around them from being exposed.”

Dothan City Schools currently has nearly 8,000 students enrolled in its district and Houston County Schools has a little over 6,500 students.