CDC: In-Person Learning Is a ‘Priority’ But Unvaccinated Children Must Wear Masks

A students adjusts her facemask at St. Joseph Catholic School in La Puente, California on November 16, 2020, where pre-kindergarten to Second Grade students in need of special services returned to the classroom today for in-person instruction. - The campus is the second Catholic school in Los Angeles County to …
Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it is a “priority” for children to safely return to in-person learning for the upcoming school year but said unvaccinated children should continue to wear masks, detailing its position in a guidance released Friday.

The federal health agency released updated guidance Friday, recognizing in-person learning for children as extremely beneficial and listing their return to the classrooms as a “priority.” This is “regardless of whether all of the prevention strategies can be implemented at the school.” Nonetheless, it is still advancing the notion that unvaccinated children should continue to wear masks in school. Currently, children under the age of 12 are not cleared to receive a vaccine. As such, the CDC recommends “layered prevention strategies” to “protect” the unvaccinated.

“COVID-19 prevention strategies remain critical to protect people, including students, teachers, and staff, who are not fully vaccinated, especially in areas of moderate-to-high community transmission levels,” the guidance states, urging localities to “monitor community transmission, vaccination coverage, screening testing, and occurrence of outbreaks to guide decisions on the level of layered prevention strategies.”

The update includes a list of bullet points, outlining the agency’s guidance for children to return to school in the fall. It is now recommending schools to keep a 3-foot distance between students in classrooms, “combined with indoor mask wearing by people who are not fully vaccinated, to reduce transmission risk.” It also recommends masks to be work indoors by all individuals over the age of 2 who are not “fully vaccinated.” However, the guidance does not specify if the CDC expects schools to identify unvaccinated children and teachers publicly and hold them to those standards.

The CDC is continuing to urge parents to get their children 12 and older vaccinated ahead of the school year, despite lingering concerns over rare heart inflammation conditions developing in younger people, primarily men, who receive one of the mRNA vaccines. However, the CDC says the benefits of receiving the vaccination outweigh the risks.


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