State Responses to New CDC Guidance on Masks in Schools Run the Gamut
Will or won’t students be required to wear masks this upcoming school year? There’s a mixed bag of answers among school districts across the country.
Guidelines issued recently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may suggest fewer restrictions when it comes to mask-wearing nationwide for K-12 schools, but some states are in flux about whether to follow the CDC’s recommendations.
Washington State Department of Health (DOH) officials, for example, are working “on a more comprehensive update to their K-12 schools’ guidance,” reports The Seattle Times. For now, health officials are “strongly” recommending but not requiring unvaccinated students and staff to continue to wear masks outside, if they can’t stay 6 feet apart. Everyone will be required to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status. The CDC recommends that fully vaccinated students and staff do not need to wear masks indoors.
Like Washington, states including California and Virginia may implement stricter policies than the CDC, requiring all students to wear masks regardless of vaccination.
“In places where we don’t have the ability to have distancing as one of the other mitigating strategies, masking is a superior form of mitigation,” said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, reports ABC 30. The mask requirement for indoor school settings “also will ensure that all kids are treating the same,” according to a statement from the state Department of Public Health.
“We think the CDC’s guidance gives California, as well as all other states, an opportunity to put together a plan with safety first, kids back in school, in a very mindful and contextual way,” added Ghaly. “The guidance is really written to allow flexibility at the local level,” said Erin Sauber-Schatz, who leads the CDC task force that prepares recommendations designed to keep Americans safe from COVID-19.
Governors and lawmakers in Arizona, Iowa, and Texas are taking an opposite stance, barring local campus officials from requiring masks.
For its incoming school year plan, Illinois appears to be following most of the CDC’s recommendations, according to ABC 8. This fall, staff and students who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 won’t have to wear masks, but those who are unvaccinated will.