Face masks for teachers, students and support staff are on the way

Students must wear face coverings when they return to classrooms for in-person instruction next month. Teachers and support staff members must wear them as well.

During his press conference Tuesday to announce that schools will reopen with a mix of in-person instruction and remote learning, Roy Cooper said the state will provide five reusable face masks to students, teachers and support staff.

That’s a lot of masks — more than 8.7 million of them.

The governor’s office reported Thursday that N.C. Emergency Management on Monday bought 1,741,092 packages of masks containing five masks each. That’s a total of 8,705, 460 individual masks.

The manufacturer started shipping the masks to local school districts on Thursday. Districts will distribute the masks to students and staff members, a spokesman for the governor said.

Whether districts will provide adequate personal protective equipment for a return to in-person instruction has been a big concern for teachers and school staff members worried about contracting coronavirus.

“Starter packs” of personal protective equipment were delivered to schools earlier this month. The packs include a two-month supply of thermometers, surgical masks, face shields and gowns for school nurses and others who provide health care to students.

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