The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday that students and teachers who have been vaccinated don’t need to wear masks in school buildings.
These changes are occurring amid a nationwide vaccination campaign where children as young as twelve can get shots. There has also been a decline in COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations.
“We’re at a point in the pandemic we’re all excited about,” Erin SauberSchatz, who heads the CDC taskforce that prepares recommendations to protect Americans from COVID-19, stated that this is a moment to update the guidance.
The country’s leading public health agency does not advise schools to give shots to teachers or children who are vaccine-eligible. It doesn’t offer any guidance to teachers on how they can determine which students have been vaccinated, nor how parents can tell which teachers have been vaccinated.
This will likely make it difficult for schools, according to Elizabeth Stuart, a John Hopkins University professor of public health who has children in middle and elementary schools.
“It would make a strange dynamic socially to have some children wearing masks and others not. How do you track that? She said that teachers shouldn’t have to keep track of which children should wear masks.
Another problem: According to the CDC, schools should keep children and their desks at least 3 feet apart in classrooms. The agency stressed that children should not be denied access to schools because of their spacing. It also stated that distancing is not necessary for fully vaccinated staff or students.
Sauber-Schatz stated that all of these recommendations may be difficult to implement.
Middle schools will pose the biggest problems, as some students may be eligible for shots while others are not. Administrators might decide to keep an existing masking policy in effect for all students if sorting unvaccinated from vaccinated students becomes too difficult.
Sauber-Schatz stated that the guidance was written to allow for flexibility at the local level.
The issue is further complicated by state mandates. California, Virginia, and other states have policies that require all students to wear masks at school, regardless of their vaccination status. However, governors and legislators in other states like Arizona, Iowa, and Texas have prohibited local school officials from mandating masks.
In some of the country’s most populous school districts, mask-wearing will continue in the fall. However, it is not expected to be as widespread in other areas. Detroit’s public schools will require everyone to wear a mask, unless everyone has been vaccinated. Philadelphia had planned to require masks. However, the school district was reviewing the policy based upon the new CDC guidance. The Texas law will mean that Houston won’t require masks.
Consider requiring COVID-19 vaccine as a condition for school attendance. This is a common practice in the United States to stop measles spread.