CDC recommends masks stay on in schools

WASHINGTON — Even as the Biden administration is preparing to vaccinate children as young as five, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky indicated on Wednesday morning that her agency would not be changing its guidance on wearing masks in schools, which it currently recommends for all teachers, students and staff.

“As we head into these winter months, we cannot be complacent,” Dr. Walensky said during a Wednesday morning briefing of the White HOuse pandemic response team. She made clear that dropping mask mandates in schools would constitute precisely such an act of complacency, that found schools without mask mandates were 3.7 times more likely to experience a coronavirus outbreak than schools where mask wearing was required.

“So right now, we’re going to continue to recommend masks in all schools, for all people in those schools,” Dr. Walensky said.

Wednesday’s briefing came as the Biden administration to vaccinate the 28 million American children between the ages of 5 and 11. Although federal regulators have not yet approved a vaccine for that cohort, approval is expected by the end of October. Vaccines are highly effective against becoming sick with and spreading the coronavirus, but they are not perfect. Nor is it clear just how many parents will immunize their children — or whether school districts will require such immunizations.

Fifth Grader Utibe Edet in a hallway at Bielefield Elementary School in Middletown, CT. Masks are required at the school. (Stan Godlewski for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Fifth Grader Utibe Edet in a hallway at Bielefield Elementary School in Middletown, CT. Masks are required at the school. (Stan Godlewski for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Masking in schools throughout August and September, as children returned to classes for a third academic year marked by the coronavirus pandemic. Republican pro-Trump governors Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas mounted a strenuous resistance to mask mandates, even though masking in schools appears to offer an added layer of protection against spread of the coronavirus.

The rise of the Delta variant because the variant is much more transmissible than other, earlier iterations of the coronavirus. “In the era of Delta, children get infected as readily as adults do, and they transmit the infection as readily as adults to,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s top science adviser, said at Wednesday’s briefing.

Some educators and epidemiologists have criticized masking in schools, arguing that evidence for the controversial intervention as proponents like Walensky have said.

Others endorse the measure but say that it is important to indicate when children can finally take off their masks. “Masks in schools were meant to be a temporary measure. It is good policy and practice to establish off-ramps for interventions that aren’t meant to be permanent,” the Johns Hopkins epidemiologists Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo on Twitter.

“So many parents I talk to ask ‘When does it end?,’” Nuzzo went on to say. “We should be able to answer what conditions would enable an end.”

Explore how the Delta variant correlates with the national political landscape in this 3D experience from the Yahoo Immersive Team.

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