CDC Director: Schools Should Keep Mask Mandates Amid White House Push for Child Vaccination

By Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Breaking News Reporter
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter at The Epoch Times based in New York.
October 20, 2021 Updated: October 20, 2021

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said schools should require masks regardless of vaccines.

“It will take some time and as I just noted, as we head into these winter months we know we cannot be complacent. We also know that from previous data that schools that have had masks in place were three-and-a-half times less likely to have school outbreaks requiring school closure,” Walensky said on Wednesday during a White House COVID-19 briefing.

As a result, the CDC will “continue to recommend masks in all schools for all people in those schools and we will look forward to scaling out pediatric vaccination during this period of time,” she said, without making mention of COVID-19 vaccines.

Mask-wearing in schools has become a politically contentious issue. Some parents and elected officials have said that forcing students to wear masks in class is tantamount to child abuse and such decisions should be up to parents, not school districts.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, both Republicans, have mounted a resistance to mask mandates, with both arguing that parents should decide what’s best for their kids. DeSantis earlier this year issued a ban to bar school mask mandates for students, which has been the subject of several lawsuits and court decisions.

Under the order, schools that violate DeSantis’s mask ban face state-backed financial penalties.

On Wednesday, some experts said that the CDC director’s persistence in keeping the school masking recommendation is poor messaging, with some saying that the agency and schools need to offer a timeline for parents and children.

“Masks in schools were meant to be a temporary measure. It is good policy and practice to establish off-ramps for interventions that aren’t meant to be permanent,” wrote Johns Hopkins epidemiologist Jennifer Nuzzo on Twitter.

“So many parents I talk to ask, ‘When does it end?’” Nuzzo continued. “We should be able to answer what conditions would enable an end.”

Writing for The Washington Post, Harvard University health policy associate professor Joseph G. Allen made a similar argument that health officials need to “set firm dates for ending masking in schools.” He referenced research that suggests that children have an extremely low risk of death or hospitalization from COVID-19.

Earlier this year, researchers from the University of Liverpool, the University College of London, the University of York, and the University of Bristol found that children and teenagers have an extremely low chance of death or severe illness.

“This is true even in areas where schools do not require vaccines for kids,” Allen added, adding: “Schools have to craft policies based on acceptable risks. Now that children will soon have access to vaccines, all parents will have the tools to send their kids to school with the assurance that they will be safe, even without masks.”

Walenksy’s comment came as the White House announced preparations to distribute the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to children aged 5 to 11. Federal health agencies are slated to meet next week to weigh the efficacy of the shots to tens of millions of children in that age group.

During the meeting, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said that decisions about vaccines have to be made at the state and local level.

Jack Phillips
Breaking News Reporter
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter at The Epoch Times based in New York.