President Joe Biden said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is likely to extend its current mask-wearing guidance to children under the age of 12 when they return to school in the fall.
“The CDC is going to say that what we should do is, everyone under the age of 12 should probably be wearing a mask in school,” Biden told a town hall in Cincinnati on July 21. “That’s probably what’s going to happen. Secondly, those over the age of 12 who are able to get vaccinated—if you’re vaccinated, you shouldn’t wear a mask. If you aren’t vaccinated, you should be wearing a mask.”
The CDC currently recommends that “masks should be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated.” Children under the age of 12 aren’t currently eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, according to the CDC.
Biden said that children under the age of 12 would be able to get vaccinated “soon.”
“They’re not promising me any specific date, but my expectation, talking to the scientists, is that sometimes, maybe in the beginning of the school year, at the end of August, beginning of September, October, you’ll get a final approval” for vaccinating children, Biden said on July 21.
“I do not tell any scientists what they should do. I do not interfere.”
His remarks come amid a surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the Delta variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
The Delta variant, which is believed to be more transmissible than other versions, is becoming the leading COVID-19 strain in many countries. The CDC said on July 6 that the Delta variant is now likely the dominant strain in the United States, currently accounting for more than half of all recorded COVID-19 cases.
A CDC spokesperson said that the variant’s prevalence in the United States has grown to 51.7 percent of all cases during the period from June 20 to July 3, from 30.4 percent for the period ending June 19.
Mask-wearing amid the COVID-19 pandemic has become a hot-button issue, with some questioning the side effects of facial coverings and others opposing mandates on grounds of personal liberty. Advocates, on the other hand, have broadly taken a better-safe-than-sorry approach in the face of disputed efficacy studies, while generally viewing mandates as a minor inconvenience that helps protect people who are prone to serious complications if they become infected.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on July 19 issued updated guidelines for school reopening, urging all staff and children over the age of 2 to wear masks in schools, regardless of vaccination status.
The AAP said that the policy would protect the unvaccinated, as much of the student population is not yet eligible for vaccines.
Senators in New Jersey, meanwhile, held a hearing earlier this month to explore the efficacy and negative effects of forcing children to wear face masks in schools; they said they think the scientific evidence doesn’t support such mandates.
Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.