The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on Monday 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, a posture that is stricter than the mask-wearing guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The AAP called its new guidance a “layered approach,” which includes recommendations for building ventilation, quarantining, as well as cleaning and disinfection.
“We need to prioritize getting children back into schools alongside their friends and their teachers—and we all play a role in making sure it happens safely,” said Sonja O’Leary, chair of the AAP Council on School Health, in a statement. “Combining layers of protection that include vaccinations, masking and clean hands hygiene will make in-person learning safe and possible for everyone,” she added.
The association said universal masking is necessary because much of the student population is not eligible for vaccines, and “masking is proven to reduce transmission of the virus and to protect those who are not vaccinated.”
There are dozens of circumstantial studies suggesting that masks work to stem the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes the disease COVID-19, although there has been just one randomized-control trial during the pandemic, carried out in Denmark. The researchers found that wearing a “surgical mask when outside the home among others did not reduce, at conventional levels of statistical significance, incident SARS-CoV-2 infection compared with no mask recommendation.”
Senators in New Jersey recently held a hearing to explore the efficacy and negative effects of mask mandates in schools for children. They found the scientific evidence does not support such mandates.
The AAP’s recommendation on universal masking in schools, with exemptions for those with a medical or developmental condition, is stricter than the CDC guidelines, which say that vaccinated students and staff need not wear masks at school.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN on Monday that the AAP’s stricter guidance makes sense.
“I think that the American Academy of Pediatrics … they’re a thoughtful group, they analyze the situation and if they feel that that’s the way to go, I think that’s a reasonable thing to do,” Fauci said.
“When you have a degree of viral dynamics in the community, and you have a substantial proportion of the population that is unvaccinated, that you really want to go the extra step, the extra mile to make sure that there’s not a lot of transmission, even breakthrough infections among vaccinated individuals,” he said.
Mask wearing amid the COVID-19 pandemic has become a hot button issue, with some questioning the efficacy 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 underpowered efficacy studies, while generally viewing mandates as a minor inconvenience that helps protect people who are prone to serious complications if they get infected.
The AAP says its Community Access to Child Health program is “made possible through the generous support of Pfizer” on its website.