HealthDay News — All U.S. students, teachers, and staff should wear masks when in school, regardless of their vaccination status, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said Monday.
That guidance runs counter to recommendations released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month. Those guidelines said teachers and students who are vaccinated can enter schools without masks, while the unvaccinated should continue to wear them to protect themselves against COVID-19.
The CDC did not offer suggestions on how teachers can know which students are vaccinated or how parents will know which teachers are immunized. The biggest issues will be at middle schools where some students are eligible for shots and others are not. If sorting vaccinated and unvaccinated students proves too difficult, administrators might choose to just keep a masking policy in place for everyone, the CDC said at the time.
Along with recommending masking for all, the latest AAP guidance says all eligible people should be vaccinated against COVID-19, strongly recommends in-person learning, and advises schools to prepare for students’ mental health needs.
Universal masking is necessary because a significant proportion of students are not yet eligible for vaccines, and masking is proven to reduce transmission of the virus and to protect those who are not vaccinated, according to the AAP. Also, many schools will not be able to monitor the vaccine status of students, teachers, and staff, and the virus may be more widespread in communities with low vaccination rates.
The AAP guidance does echo CDC recommendations for school building ventilation, testing, quarantining, cleaning, and disinfection. Safety precautions are highly effective when used consistently, and children are at higher risk for suffering mental health issues and developmental setbacks if they miss out on in-school learning, according to the AAP.