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Optional masks in schools could lead to a surge in COVID cases

Many school systems in North Alabama have announced they are making face masks optional after the state's mandate is lifted on April 9.

ALABAMA, USA — Alabama's mask mandate expires Friday, April 9, and schools and businesses are still deciding if they will continue to require them.

Even with the state's mask mandate expiring, doctors are asking people to keep wearing them.

"Masks allow us to still interact with one another and still be in person with one another, but it protects us," said UAB Medicine Healthcare Epidemiologist Dr. Rachael Lee.

Many school systems in the Tennessee Valley will keep masks a requirement after the state's mandate is lifted, but some school systems have announced they are making it optional.

RELATED: Will North Alabama schools still require masks after statewide mandate expires?

"As we've seen more of these variants which have been documented in younger people as well, we really, really want to prevent that spread, and masks are number one the best way to do that," said Dr. Lee.

Dr. Lee says Alabama could see another COVID surge in communities where schools make masks optional. If your child attends a school that is no longer requiring masks, Dr. Lee recommends continuing to follow CDC guidelines.

"They still do recommend in school settings to continue to wear masks," said Dr. Lee. "You can continue to send your children with masks even if your school has lifted their mask mandate."

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Along with wearing face masks, doctors say vaccines are key to getting on the other side of the pandemic.

"Teens sixteen years and up getting vaccinated will help tremendously in preventing further spread in the school," said Dr. Lee. "We know that we've been able to offer teachers vaccines, and hopefully if you are a teacher, you have already received your vaccination."

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WATCH: Will North Alabama schools still require masks after statewide mandate expires?