MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced on Monday that face masks would no longer be required for middle and high school students as long as their parents filled out opt-out forms online or turned them in.

Carvalho said the decision was based on significantly improving health conditions and input from health experts.

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Elementary students and those at K-8 centers will be still be required to wear face masks, but he also said a decision on relaxing restrictions for them could be made soon. He could not set a timetable.

“I think it’s reasonable,” said Dr. Marcos Mestre, CMO of Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. “There’s not a right or wrong to mask wearing. It’s about your risk tolerance.”

Carvalho said Miami-Dade Schools followed a set of criteria or COVID metrics, including fewer than 100 cases per 100,000 residents in the last two weeks and a decline in new case positivity rates for two consecutive weeks and a decline in student cases. On October 27 there were 15 reported cases and on October 26 there were 13 reported cases.

Other metrics: at least 80% of students in the ages of 12 to 18 have to have had at least one vaccine and at least 60% have had to have had two vaccines. New daily COVID hospitalizations have to be below 100 for two consecutive days and fewer than 15% of hospitalized have to be occupied by COVID patients.

Dr. Mestre said he is seeing that reflected at his hospital, where during the peak saw 25-30 patients a day.

“Now we see two to three,” said Dr. Mestre. “It’s definitely a significant decrease.”

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Carvalho told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, “It is very gratifying and this has not been easy. I thank the work force and the students. And I am glad to say we have met the criteria. We would not be where we are today without the actions of the School Board. I am proud of this community and our high vaccination all levels that are higher than other areas of the country. But I also want to say that vaccines work. They worked for rubella and mumps. It is no different.”

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Last week, Broward County Public Schools allowed high school students to opt out of wearing masks.

United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez Mats thanks faculty, staff and students saying in a statement, “This is a step in the right direction as we continue to utilize the various mitigation protocols in place.”

School Board member Dorothy Bendross-Mindinghall said, “We followed the date and the science and parents believed in us.”

At Doral Academy Preparatory School, high school students told D’Oench that they did not want to part with their face masks.

Frank Melendez, who is in 11th grade, said, “I think it should be required for safety. Why risk that?”

Fernando Diaz, who is in 12th grade, said, “I think people should wear masks. It’s not worth jeopardizing your health and your safety.”

His mother Ligia Lopez, whose mother and mother-in-law live with her, applauds her son’s decision.

She said, “I was sick with COVID last year and I had a terrible time. I think it should be required. You have to protect everybody. I was in the hospital for three days. I cannot risk my mother and my mother-in-law who are at home and I cannot risk the rest of my family.”

Dr. Mestre agrees that moving forward, mask wearing depends on your child’s surroundings at home and at school.

Consider if you have immunocompromised family members at home or how many people living in your home are vaccinated. At school, consider how many students are in a classroom together, is there capability of being outside, and is there appropriate ventilation.

It’s also important to keep your kid at home if they’re sick or even have the sniffles. When vaccines are available for younger children, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital will have them. Dr. Mestre knows there will be some vaccine hesitancy among parents.

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“I want to emphasize to parents that the dosing we’re using for Pfizer is a third of what’s being used for 12 and over,” said Dr. Mestre, who added that there have been no significant side effects in the studies.

Peter D'Oench