July 20, 2021 | 4:15 pm
The American Academy of Pediatrics released updated guidelines for schools on Monday, recommending that all students over the age of 2, along with staff, wear face masks, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
The new AAP guidelines come less than two weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their own recommendations, calling for wearing masks indoors for unvaccinated students as young as age 2, as well as for staff. (Children under 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination.) However, the CDC notes that schools may find universal masking necessary in areas of low vaccination coverage, increasing community transmission, or a number of other reasons.
Both sets of guidance are aimed at getting students back in the classroom.
“Given what we know about low school transfer rates when appropriate prevention measures are used, along with the availability of effective vaccines for children ages 12 and older,” the AAP says, “the benefits of in-person school outweigh the risks.” almost all circumstances.”
Despite these recommendations, many schools will no longer need face masks in the coming school year. South Carolina, for example, has banned counties from requiring masks for students or staff. In Texas, districts are not allowed to require anyone, including parents and other visitors, to wear a mask. Meanwhile, other states are demanding the opposite: In Washington, schools must mandate indoor masks or face coverings, regardless of vaccination status.
In its guidelines, the AAP says it recommends universal masking because enforcing masking only on unvaccinated students and tracking the vaccination status of students and staff can be difficult for schools. The organization also notes that wearing masks protects unvaccinated individuals and may reduce the transmission of other respiratory illnesses that cause students and staff to stay home sick. The guidance offers exceptions for students and employees with developmental or medical conditions that make it difficult to wear a mask.
The AAP’s guidelines note that all eligible individuals should be vaccinated and “it may be necessary for schools to collect COVID-19 vaccine information from staff and students and for schools to require COVID-19 vaccination for personal to learn.”
As of Sunday, according to CDC data, about 38% of 16- to 17-year-olds had been fully vaccinated, and 26% of 12 to 15-year-olds.
The AAP’s recommendations come as COVID-19 cases increase across the country in what the head of the CDC has called a “pandemic of unvaccinated.”