U.S. public health officials are becoming increasingly concerned with the rapid spread of the new delta variant across states, with in-person classes nearing. In response, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released an updated set of guidelines that recommend obligating students to wear masks when attending in-person classes in schools. The AAP deemed it best to publish the guidelines as numerous states are prohibiting local schools from mandating face masks. That is also in consideration of statistics showing that vaccination rates among children 12 years had dropped, while hospitalizations have increased.
Sonja O’Leary, MD, FAAP, who chairs the AAP’s Council on School Health Executive Committee, explained that as the new school year approaches, COVID variants have become more contagious. Moreover, there is a huge population of students that are not qualified to receive vaccination shots. The aforementioned reason is one of the driving factors that prompted AAP to recommend the mandatory wearing of protective masks inside schools.
AAP Mask Guidance Counters that of CDC’s
AAP’s mask guidance specifically declares that all school staff and learners, 2 years old and older, must wear protective face masks while inside their schools. The new guidance contradicts that of CDC’s which states that all school staff, teachers, and students are not required to wear masks if one is already fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Nonetheless, CDC officials continue to recommend that students should still maintain social distancing of 3 feet apart inside classrooms. CDC prioritizes the safe return of in-person learning by fall this year while advocating vaccination to make studying and extracurricular activities are much safer.
Chicago to Heed AAP’s Face Mask Guidance
After AAP’s new guidance was issued, Chicago announced that all public schools will require the wearing of face masks in schools once the new school year starts. Classes will commence on August 30 by way of in-person learning to be held five days every week. According to interim chief executive of Chicago Public Schools Jose Torres, the mandate regarding masks is applicable to visitors, students, and staff members. Moreover, students are to be dispersed during meal breaks, while keeping a distance of at least 3 feet away from each other.