Vaccinated teachers and students don't need masks, CDC says

U.S. health officials say vaccinated teachers and students don't need to wear masks inside school buildings.

Posted: Jul 9, 2021 4:19 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — Vaccinated teachers and students don't need to wear masks inside school buildings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday in relaxing its COVID-19 guidelines.

The changes come amid a national vaccination campaign in which children as young as 12 are eligible to get shots, as well as a general decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.

“We're at a new point in the pandemic that we're all really excited about," and so it's time to update the guidance, said Erin Sauber-Schatz, who leads the CDC task force that prepares recommendations designed to keep Americans safe from COVID-19.

The nation's top public health agency is not advising schools to require shots for teachers and vaccine-eligible kids. And it's not offering guidance on how teachers can know which students are vaccinated or how parents will know which teachers are immunized.

That's probably going to make for some challenging school environments, said Elizabeth Stuart, a John Hopkins University public health professor who has children in elementary and middle schools.

“It would be a very weird dynamic, socially, to have some kids wearing masks and some not. And tracking that? Teachers shouldn't need to be keeping track of which kids should have masks on,” she said.

Another potential headache: Schools should continue to space kids — and their desks — 3 feet apart in classrooms, the CDC says. But the agency emphasized that spacing should not be an obstacle to getting kids back in schools. And it said distancing is not required among fully vaccinated students or staff.

All of this may prove hard to implement, and that's why CDC is advising schools to make decisions that make the most sense, Sauber-Schatz said.

The biggest questions will be at middle schools where some students are eligible for shots and others aren’t. If sorting vaccinated and unvaccinated students proves too burdensome, administrators might choose to just keep a masking policy in place for everyone.

“The guidance is really written to allow flexibility at the local level,” Sauber-Schatz said.

State mandates are further complicating the issue. Several states, including California and Virginia, have policies requiring all students to wear masks at school regardless of vaccination. But governors and lawmakers in some other states, including in Arizona, Iowa and Texas, have barred local school officials from requiring masks.

Widespread mask-wearing is expected to continue this fall in some of the nation’s largest school districts, but not in others. In Detroit’s public schools, everyone will be required to wear a mask unless everyone in the classroom has been vaccinated. Philadelphia was planning to require masks, but the school district was reviewing the policy based on the new CDC guidance. Houston will not require masks at all because of the Texas law.

What about requiring COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of school attendance? That's commonly done across the country to prevent spread of measles and other diseases.

The CDC has repeatedly praised such requirements, but the agency on Friday didn't recommend that measure because it is considered a state and local policy decision, CDC officials said.

Early in the pandemic, health officials worried schools might become coronavirus cauldrons that spark community outbreaks. But studies have shown that schools often see less transmission than the surrounding community when certain prevention measures are followed.

The new guidance is the latest revision to advice the CDC began making to schools last year. In March, the CDC stopped recommending that children and their desks be spaced 6 feet apart, shrinking the distance to 3 feet, and dropped its call for use of plastic shields.

The new schools guidance says:

—No one at schools needs to wear masks at recess or in most other outdoor situations. However, unvaccinated people are advised to wear masks if they are in a crowd for an extended period of time, like in the stands at a football game.

—Ventilation and handwashing continue to be important. Students and staff also should stay home when they are sick.

—Testing remains an important way to prevent outbreaks. But the CDC also says people who are fully vaccinated do not need to participate in such screening.

—Separating students into smaller groups, or cohorts, continues to be a good way to help reduce spread of the virus. But the CDC discouraged putting vaccinated and unvaccinated kids in separate groups, saying schools shouldn't stigmatize any group or perpetuate academic, racial or other tracking.

Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, called the new CDC guidance “an important roadmap for reducing the risk of COVID-19 in schools.”

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten praised the guidance as being “grounded in both science and common sense.”

“Our ultimate goal remains: to get students, teachers and staff back in school buildings full time, and to make sure they’re safe while doing it," she said in a statement, adding that dozens of the union's affiliates are holding vaccine clinics.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona pledged to work with schools to help them get kids back into classrooms.

“We know that in-person learning offers vital opportunities for all students to develop healthy, nurturing relationships with educators and peers, and that students receive essential supports in school for their social and emotional wellbeing, mental health, and academic success," he said in a statement.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 482902

Reported Deaths: 9425
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison33063488
Hinds31021589
DeSoto30610358
Jackson23687348
Rankin21340370
Lee14909220
Madison14166271
Jones13404227
Forrest13160240
Lauderdale11601305
Lowndes10443176
Lamar10214130
Pearl River9098221
Lafayette8241137
Hancock7514112
Washington7102150
Oktibbeha6964124
Monroe6514164
Neshoba6475201
Warren6464164
Pontotoc630393
Panola6250126
Marshall6126123
Bolivar6115144
Union574186
Pike5613136
Alcorn537290
Lincoln5303131
George471472
Scott459196
Leflore4476140
Prentiss446779
Tippah446480
Itawamba4444100
Adams4416116
Tate4394101
Simpson4335112
Wayne433066
Copiah431787
Yazoo423386
Covington415792
Sunflower4148104
Marion4099104
Leake397586
Coahoma3957100
Newton370875
Grenada3556104
Stone350860
Tishomingo336289
Attala325387
Jasper314162
Winston304691
Clay296473
Chickasaw287065
Clarke282190
Calhoun266141
Holmes262187
Smith250649
Yalobusha221047
Tallahatchie220450
Walthall211058
Greene209045
Lawrence206833
Perry199953
Amite198452
Webster196542
Noxubee178939
Montgomery172454
Jefferson Davis168342
Carroll162137
Tunica153334
Benton142535
Kemper138640
Choctaw127026
Claiborne126834
Humphreys126637
Franklin116728
Quitman103926
Wilkinson101936
Jefferson91333
Sharkey63020
Issaquena1926
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 784484

Reported Deaths: 13921
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1111691760
Mobile707171225
Madison49549625
Baldwin36108489
Shelby36062314
Tuscaloosa33661547
Montgomery33066676
Lee22407219
Calhoun21041405
Morgan19734334
Etowah19001459
Marshall17619274
Houston16697382
St. Clair15361303
Cullman14506257
Limestone14505187
Elmore14387260
Lauderdale13436280
Talladega12855234
DeKalb12140236
Walker10524329
Blount9649156
Autauga9642137
Jackson9325156
Coffee8793175
Dale8529172
Colbert8482182
Tallapoosa6616177
Escambia6553120
Covington6420165
Chilton6342143
Russell602455
Franklin5758101
Chambers5370133
Marion4769117
Dallas4676187
Pike460096
Clarke459878
Geneva4371116
Winston422994
Lawrence4107108
Bibb407380
Barbour343270
Marengo325683
Monroe317152
Butler316490
Randolph304456
Pickens301873
Henry300357
Hale291584
Cherokee288353
Fayette277973
Washington245148
Crenshaw237069
Cleburne231150
Clay226765
Macon218658
Lamar193342
Conecuh181346
Lowndes170758
Coosa168033
Wilcox159736
Bullock148842
Perry136336
Sumter124336
Greene120642
Choctaw73326
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While some cool mornings are again in store for the weekend, afternoons start to warm up a bit, so plan on dressing in layers if you're heading to the MSU or Bama games, because you'll need to utilize them in different ways.
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