CORONAVIRUS | US

CDC updates mask guidelines for students in school

The CDC advises to mask up indoors where there is a high or substantial covid-19 transmission. Nearly 95 percent of US counties meet that condition.

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CDC updates mask guidelines for students in school
LUCY NICHOLSON REUTERS

School is getting underway across the US and as children go back to school, they are advised to don their masks once again this year. The Delta covid-19 variant is pushing up infection rates in nearly every state with almost 87 percent of counties now experiencing high transmission rates according to CDC data.

The CDC reversed course last month and recommended that students, staff and visitors mask up at K-12 schools even if fully vaccinated "in areas with substantial and high transmission.” The percentage of areas with substantial is declining along with moderate and low rates, with high transmission the only category increasing.

CDC covid-19 prevention recommendations for schools

The CDC still says that children should return to full-time in-person learning this school year “with layered prevention strategies in place.” Regardless of vaccination status everyone present inside school buildings age 2 and older, including all other public indoor spaces, should wear a mask in an area of high or substantial transmission “to maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others.”

This comes out of concern over rare cases of vaccinated individuals getting infected and the potential they can spread the highly contagious Delta covid-19 variant.

Wearing a mask “is NOT a substitute for social distancing,” according to CDC guidance. In addition to wearing a mask individuals should still stay at least 6 feet apart, “especially when indoors around people who don’t live in your household.” Other measures to aid in the prevention of spreading covid-19 are regular handwashing and ventilating indoor spaces.

Biden calls on Department of Education to take action on mask bans in schools

Mask mandates have been a political flashpoint around the US with some state governors implementing mask mandate bans for schools, threatening to withhold funding for districts that do so. The Texas Education Agency said that it would not enforce Governor Greg Abbott’s facemask ban while it faces legal challenges from multiple districts.

Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis suffered his first legal setback when a judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit over his ban on mask mandates in schools. This came a day after the Miami-Dade County Public Schools district, the fourth largest in the nation, became the latest in the state to impose universal masking, except for those with a certified medical condition.

Pressure may soon be coming from the federal government on states trying to ban mask mandates in schools. President Joe Biden on Wednesday ordered his Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to take action against those governors that have banned universal masking in schools. “This includes using all of his oversight authorities and legal action if appropriate against governors who are trying to block and intimidate local school officials,” President Biden said at a news conference.