New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday that students and teachers will have to keep wearing masks when they return to school this fall, despite updated federal guidelines suggesting that vaccinated youth and adults can drop face coverings inside classrooms.
Under the guidelines released last Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that unvaccinated children continue to wear masks at school while adults and older students who are vaccinated against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus not longer have to.
De Blasio, while sounding optimistic on preparations for a full return to in-person learning in the fall, said schools will stick with the state’s existing mask protocols.
“I’m absolutely confident based on this guidance and everything else we’ve seen that we’ll be able to get all our kids back into school in September, but for now [we’re] sticking with the idea that, you know, wearing the masks is a smart thing to do in schools,” de Blasio told reporters. “We’ll keep assessing as we go along but I think, for now, it still makes sense.”
“We’ve been constantly working with the CDC but we also, in this case, have been very careful given everything the city’s been through,” he added.
The mayor’s decision, although not accommodating to the CDC’s latest guidance, is consistent with that of New York State, which still mandates universal mask wearing in school buildings. The United Federation of Teachers, a labor union representing nearly 200,000 employees in New York City’s public school system, has also been in favor of keeping the restrictions in place.
According to New York City’s health department, ten percent of children aged 12-17 in the city are fully vaccinated. Children under the age of 12 so far have yet to be authorized to receive vaccines against the CCP virus.
The announcement comes as California continues to require that masks to be worn indoors at schools in the state, regardless of teachers and students’ vaccination status.
“We’re going to start with a requirement K through 12 that the year begins with masks,” said California’s Health Secretary Mark Ghaly, reported the Los Angeles Time. “At the outset of the new year, students should be able to walk into school without worrying about whether they will feel different or singled out for being vaccinated or unvaccinated—treating all kids the same will support a calm and supportive school environment.”
Federal data, as well as a number of studies, have suggested that children are at much lower risk of contracting the CCP virus than adults are, and when they do, are much less likely to suffer severe symptoms.
Advocates have also expressed concern about possible psychological impacts of mandatory mask wearing.