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Jefferson County Health Department to vote on countywide mask mandate

It's been a highly contested topic on both sides for the last few months

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Mo. — A familiar discussion will take place tonight in Jefferson County. 

The Jefferson County Health Department will vote on whether or not to require masks throughout the county. Currently, there is no mask mandate. 

It all comes as students at Northwest High School and Fox High school return to in-person classes. 

"Our classrooms right now can social distance pretty well and we have about 15 kids in a classroom," said Northwest Principal Brad Snell. "Obviously, we are asking students to wear masks in the building at all times, but of course if they're 6 feet apart they can take that mask down or take a mask break. Our students are pretty cooperative though, so I don't see masks being a problem with us."

Like many schools, Northwest is offering an all-virtual option. Out of about 1,800 students, 450 opted for the virtual option. 

RELATED: St. Louis task force reports 'alarming' single-day record of new COVID-19 patients

The Jefferson County Health Department Board of Trustees is scheduled to vote Thursday afternoon on whether or not to require masks throughout the county. The meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m.

The last meeting was four hours long. Board members debated a mask mandate but ended up not voting on the issue.

Since the last meeting on July 29, there have been 15 more deaths and more than 1,300 new COVID-19 cases in the county.

Those in favor of a mask mandate say wearing a mask is crucial to helping stop the spread of the coronavirus. 

Those opposed say it should be a personal choice to wear a mask. 

RELATED: Jefferson County health department says contact tracing can't keep up, asking asymptomatic people exposed to COVID-19 to self-isolate

On Wednesday, the county health department said contact tracers can't keep up with a recent increase in cases.

Because of that, the department is asking anyone who tested positive or was exposed to someone who tested positive to self-isolate until receiving a call from the health department.

"This means staying home," the department said in a Facebook post. "Do not go to work, school, church, the gym or the grocery store."