The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday released guidance that is urging schools to fully reopen in the fall, saying that students who are fully vaccinated don’t need to wear masks.
The new guidance, which covers policies other than masks, is not mandatory but is expected to influence local school officials, governors, and local health departments in crafting their COVID-19 policies.
“Vaccination is currently the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Promoting vaccination can help schools safely return to in-person learning as well as extracurricular activities and sports,” the CDC wrote. Unvaccinated students or staff should continue to wear masks and recommended schools carry out voluntary routine testing once per week, according to the guidance.
The agency is also encouraging 3-feet distancing for unvaccinated students in the classroom but it said that the recommendation shouldn’t prevent schools from being reopened.
As for masks, the agency said, they “should be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated.” However, the CDC said that all students, drivers, and others have to wear masks on school buses, as they are counted as public transportation.
Children who are under the age of 12 are not eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, according to the CDC. The guidance appears to suggest that all children aged 11 and under should wear masks if the eligibility requirement isn’t expanded before the schools return in the fall. The Epoch Times has contacted the CDC for comment.
Friday’s guidance did not issue any recommendations or guidance on whether schools should require proof of vaccination to enter or enroll in classes. Many public schools already require proof of other childhood immunizations such as the MMR vaccine targeting measles, mumps, and rubella.
Some medical professionals disagreed with the CDC’s guidance on mask-wearing for unvaccinated children. Critics of the guidance also argued that the guidance around mask-wearing will potentially create unfavorable social situations in schools, as some children will wear masks while others will not.
“I disagree. Mask-wearing by kids should not be universal,” wrote Nicole Saphier, a physician based in New York, on Twitter following the CDC guidance update.
Meanwhile, a study from JAMA published in late June found there are “consequences of elevated carbon dioxide levels in kids and hypercapnia from inhaled air from the dead space a mask creates,” said Johns Hopkins professor Marty Malarky on Twitter on July 1. “This is why I was so fired up by the CDC guidance for kids to wear masks outside.”
Following the CDC guidance update, one of the largest teacher’s unions in the U.S., the American Federation of Teachers, released a statement and largely said it agrees with the agency’s conclusions and recommendations.
The Biden administration has not made any federal mandates for vaccines, with officials saying that the decision is up to schools and businesses to make such decisions. Several federal officials have said the mandate could change if federal regulators grant their full approval to common COVID-19 vaccines, which are currently being distributed and administered under the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency authorization.
Individual school districts have already gone ahead with plans to reopen.
The Clay County Public Health Center in Missouri, for example, has said that masks will not be required for children when they go back to school in the fall.
And in Arizona, the Chandler Unified School District decided that mask-wearing should be voluntary when Gov. Doug Ducey signed a law that prohibits local counties and school districts from requiring students and staff to wear them.
The CDC’s guidance further recommended schools that attempt to transition away from implementing pandemic restrictions should do so carefully and gradually.
“If localities decide to remove prevention strategies in schools based on local conditions, they should remove them one at a time and monitor closely (with adequate testing) for any increases in COVID-19 cases before removing the next prevention strategy,” it said.
The agency also provided more recommendations on preventing the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, including providing ventilation in enclosed spaces.
“Screening testing, ventilation, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, staying home when sick and getting tested, contact tracing in combination with quarantine and isolation, and cleaning and disinfection are also important layers of prevention to keep schools safe,” according to the CDC.