CDC now sides with pediatricians: Everybody should mask up in schools

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, Erin Hicks secures the mask of her daughter Addie, a kindergartner, as father Eddie Hicks looks on the first day of school at Jackson Elementary School in Lawrenceville on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020. For the upcoming school year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says staff and students should return to schools in masks, even if they are vaccinated against COVID-19. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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Amid the coronavirus outbreak, Erin Hicks secures the mask of her daughter Addie, a kindergartner, as father Eddie Hicks looks on the first day of school at Jackson Elementary School in Lawrenceville on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020. For the upcoming school year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says staff and students should return to schools in masks, even if they are vaccinated against COVID-19. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Most Georgia districts never mandated masks amid COVID and are unlikely to do so

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered new guidance today that aligns with the recommendation last week from the nation’s pediatricians: Staff and students should return to schools in masks, even if they are vaccinated against COVID-19.

At a news conference explaining her concerns over the rise of the far more infectious delta variant of the virus, CDC head Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, “This is not a decision we at CDC have made lightly.”

The update from the CDC, which previously had advised masks only for unvaccinated students and staff, won the approval of leaders of the nation’s top teacher unions today.

National Education Association President Becky Pringle said in a statement, “To ensure we have safe, equitable in-person instruction for every student in America, we must follow the science and listen to the medical experts at CDC. The evidence is clear that masks provide important protection against COVID-19 and provide the greatest protection for all of us. NEA supports robust masking policies that will keep students, families, and educators safe.”

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said, “When science and evidence speak, we listen. The CDC has issued this indoor mask mandate as a result of the troubling surge of COVID-19 delta variant cases in unvaccinated communities and evidence of transmissibility of the delta variant, even by vaccinated people. Wearing masks inside schools regardless of vaccine status is required to deal with the changing realities of virus transmission. It is a necessary precaution until children under 12 can receive a COVID-19 vaccination and more Americans 12 and older get vaccinated. We continue to be concerned about this variant, but our No. 1 priority remains a safe in-person school year in schools that can stay open. Given the new evidence, that means requiring everyone in school buildings to wear masks, and that’s what we’ll work with our school communities to do.”

It’s unlikely many Georgia school districts will listen to the CDC or the American Academy of Pediatrics, following the lead of Gov. Brian Kemp, who opposes requiring masks in schools. His spokesman said today that the CDC guidance will not affect Kemp’s resistance. “The governor’s position on mask mandates — especially in K-12 schools — has not changed,” said Cody Hall.

Nor will school superintendents likely heed the letter from the Georgia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics a week ago urging them to adopt “universal masking because a significant portion of the K-12 student population is not yet eligible for vaccination and masking is a proven measure for protecting those who are not vaccinated.”

ajc.com

Most Georgia districts outside of metro Atlanta never mandated masks during the pandemic. The CDC update today led Gwinnett County Public Schools to announce it will require masks, joining the Atlanta, Clayton, Decatur, Rockdale, Clarke and DeKalb systems, all of which already had imposed mandates. However, masks remain optional at this point in classrooms in Cherokee, Cobb, Forsyth, Paulding, Marietta, and Fulton.

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