The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has responded to recent reports of some U.S. schools issuing mask mandates in recent weeks.
During an interview with CNN on Sept. 22, CDC Director Dr. Mandy Cohen was asked about whether school mask mandates are a "good policy."
"We want folks to be reacting to what they’re seeing on the ground in their community and making sure that they’re protecting themselves," she responded. "Masking is one of those solutions that folks could choose to use to protect themselves from this virus."
While studies cited by the CDC state that masks and face coverings provide some protection from COVID-19, a number of studies state otherwise, and some even conclude that mandatory mask-wearing can be harmful under certain circumstances.
The CDC director said, "We want folks to know that there are tools that they can use. But there are more things than masks."
In recent weeks, at least two public schools—one in Maryland and the other in Alabama—have initiated mask-wearing under certain circumstances. Officials cited a recent uptick in COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.
The Maryland school implemented the rule several weeks ago, targeting a single class after COVID-19 cases were reported among students. The move drew pushback from some Republican lawmakers, who suggested that it was a form of child abuse.
In Alabama, Kinterbish Junior High School posted in August that due to the "slow raise (sic) of COVID cases," students, employees, and visitors "[were] asked to wear facial masks." It's unclear how long the advisory will remain in place.
Two colleges initiated a mask requirement in August. Dillard University in Louisiana in late August implemented its mandate for students, visitors, and staff for a two-week period, while Morris Brown College in Atlanta also issued a two-week mask mandate in August.
Earlier in the month, as the CDC recommended the new vaccine booster shots, Dr. Cohen was asked about whether COVID-19 vaccine, mask, or stay-at-home mandates would return en masse.
Other MandatesOutside of schools, several California Bay Area counties mandated mask-wearing for health care workers in hospitals while they're caring for patients. Contra Costa, Sonoma, Alameda, and San Mateo counties issued orders for staff at care facilities and hospitals, starting on Nov. 1 and ending on April 30, 2024.
Since August, several hospitals across the United States have reimplemented mask mandates, although some have made face coverings mandatory only for employees—not for patients or visitors. A smaller number of schools and some private businesses have also made masking mandatory in recent weeks, sparking fears of a repeat of COVID-19 mandates that were imposed over the past several years.
Republican officials have expressed alarm about the return of mandates, with several 2024 GOP presidential candidates speaking out against them. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this month that his state wouldn’t reimplement the mandates, and former President Donald Trump released a video on social media calling on Americans to resist the rules, which he described as tyrannical.
Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) introduced a measure that would bar federal agencies from mandating mask orders, but it was blocked in the Senate by Democrats. However, in a recent press conference, Mr. Vance signaled that he's working with other senators to have "some version of it passed."