New school rules will be in place for the school year.
With vaccinations available in the U.S. for anyone 12 years old and older, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has altered its guidelines for students who will be returning to schools later this year.
Before, the guidelines stated that masks would be required for students in grades kindergarten to 12th grade. Now, the CDC is saying that all fully vaccinated students and staff do not have to wear masks during school. Only staff or students who are not vaccinated should wear masks indoors, says the CDC. In addition, masks will not be required outside, during activities—including recess and physical education.
Despite the no-mask rule for any students, teachers, or staff who are fully vaccinated, the CDC still recommends physical distance, with at least 3 feet of distance in classrooms. The CDC advises rules should be implemented by schools based on various factors, including the amount of vaccinated staff and students; monitoring of vaccination status, if possible; and if any community outbreaks occur.
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona released a statement on the situation this past Friday. "We know that in-person learning offers vital opportunities for all students to develop healthy, nurturing relationships with educators and peers, and that students receive essential supports in school for their social and emotional wellbeing, mental health, and academic success," Cardona told the Associated Press.
The CDC seems to agree, attesting that in-person learning is important, especially as infections have decreased. This news comes in light of the new Delta variant, which may threaten students who are unable to be vaccinated. The CDC thus urges schools to encourage vaccination for any students or staff who are eligible, as well as their household. The CDC claims this step is "one of the most critical strategies to help schools safely resume full operations."
The reception of the new CDC guidelines is still unclear. Parents, students, and teachers have come together during the past year to make virtual learning work the best they could. For schools that offered in-person learning, viral outbreaks occurred. The no-mask policy may still lead to viral transmission, but the CDC states that the risk is low if social distancing is still implemented.
Different local governments have already put in place their own rules. Rhode Island's Governor Dan McKee already agreed that neither students nor teachers have to wear masks. On the other hand, California has decided that masks must be worn regardless of vaccination status. Some states, like Connecticut and New York, are allowing school districts to resolve the mandate.
Overall, different opinions from teachers, parents, and critics have met the new CDC guidelines.
Dr. Brandon Brown, an epidemiologist at the University of California, told USA Today, "At this point in time I believe everyone interacting with children at schools should be wearing masks regardless of vaccination status."
What are your thoughts on no-mask rules for schools? Share in the comments.