Teachers and students who are already vaccinated they will not have to wear a mask inside school buildingsthe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the main body in charge of public health in the United States, reported on Friday.
The changes take place within the framework of a national vaccination campaign, in which children up to 12 years old can get vaccinated, as well as a general decline in coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths.
“We are at a new point in the pandemic that we are all excited about,” and now is the time to update the guidelines, said Erin Sauber-Schatz, who leads the CDC task force that prepares recommendations aimed at keeping the Americans safe from COVID-19.
The CDC measures were announced as part of a broad vaccination campaign.
The country’s main public health agency is not advising schools to require vaccinations for teachers and children. And it is not offering guidance guides on how to know which students are vaccinated, or how parents could know which teachers are immunized.
This probably will create some difficult school environmentssaid Elizabeth Stuart, a John Hopkins University public health professor who has children in elementary and middle school.
“It would be a very strange dynamic, from a social point of view, for some children to wear chinstraps and others not. And keep track of that? Teachers shouldn’t have to keep track of which children should wear masks,” he added.
Another possible headache
According to the CDC, schools must continue to separate children – and their benches – one meter apart in classrooms. The agency however emphasized that space should not be an obstacle for the children to go back to school.
He further added that distancing is not necessary between fully vaccinated students or staff.
The CDC has been modifying its recommendations regarding classrooms and distance between students. Photo: AP
All of this can be difficult to implement, which is why the CDC advises schools to make the most logical decisions, Sauber-Schatz said.
The biggest questions will arise in secondary schools, where some students can be vaccinated and others cannot. If classifying vaccinated and unvaccinated students is too heavy, administrators they could choose to maintain a chinstrap policy for all.
“The guide is written to allow flexibility at the local level,” Sauber-Schatz said.
In fact, in some of the nation’s largest school districts, the widespread use of chinstraps is expected to continue this fall. In Detroit public schools, everyone will be required to wear it, unless every student in the classroom has been vaccinated.
Philadelphia will require that all public school students and staff wear masks inside buildings, even if they are vaccinated. But masks will not be required in Houston schools.
What if vaccination against COVID-19 is required as a condition of attending school? This is what is routinely done across the country to prevent the spread of measles and other diseases.
The CDC has repeatedly praised these kinds of requirements, but on Friday the agency did not recommend such a measure because it is seen as a state and local policy decision.
At the beginning of the pandemic, health authorities feared that schools would become cauldrons for coronavirus, triggering outbreaks in the community. But studies have shown that schools tend to have less transmission than the surrounding community when certain prevention measures are followed.
The new guidance is the latest revision of the advice CDC began giving schools last year.
In March, the CDC stopped recommending that children and their desks be one and a half meters apart, reducing the distance to one and a half meters, and dropped the call for the use of plastic shields.
In May, the agency said Americans in general don’t have to be so cautious about masks and outdoor distancing, and that fully vaccinated people do not need masks in most situationss. That change was incorporated into the updated guidance for summer camps and now for schools.