As parents and caregivers prepare to send students back to physical classrooms this fall, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released new guidance for wearing masks in schools. While every state has its own rules about masks in schools, the health agency offers general guidance on ways to protect children and teachers from spreading COVID-19. In its most recent update, the CDC announced that those who are fully vaccinated don’t need to mask up while in class.
Vaccinated Students Don't Need To Wear A Mask In School
On July 9, the CDC said fully vaccinated students and teachers do not have to wear masks indoors in school. “We’re at a new point in the pandemic that we’re all really excited about, [so it’s time to update the guidance],” Erin Sauber-Schatz, a member of the CDC task force, told the Associated Press.
The CDC noted that “masks should be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated.”
“Consistent and correct mask use by people who are not fully vaccinated is especially important indoors and in crowded settings, when physical distancing cannot be maintained,” the health agency said.
While the CDC has offered its guidance, it also noted that the decision on masks in schools for those who are vaccinated is up to individual school boards. Masks should still be worn on school buses by drivers and students alike, whether they have been vaccinated or not.
Schools Should Still Practice Social Distancing
The CDC recommends schools should still maintain physical distancing of 3 feet apart between students in classrooms, in addition to mask-wearing for students who aren’t vaccinated. “When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, such as when schools cannot fully re-open while maintaining these distances, it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as indoor masking,” the CDC advised.
Additionally, the CDC also recommends free voluntary testing for COVID-19 once per week.
Many Students Are Still Too Young To Be Vaccinated
The no-mask recommendation from the CDC is not without its hurdles. Students under the age of 12 are currently not eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as testing continues to be done on its safety. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for kids 12 and up.
While the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that children under the age of 12 do not need masks unless they are in an area with mass infection rates or close to someone who is sick, the CDC continues to recommend masks for kids over the age of 2 years old. Depending on the rules of their local school board, this could mean elementary school kids will be expected to wear masks until they are 12 years old.
The CDC’s Guidance May Be Difficult To Enforce
Some have voiced concern about teachers being expected to police students and their masks. Johns Hopkins University public health professor Elizabeth Stuart told the Associated Press, “It would be a very weird dynamic, socially, to have some kids wearing masks and some not. And tracking that? Teachers shouldn’t need to be keeping track of which kids should have masks on.”
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here.