The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new school protocols for the fall, when children return to class, on Friday.
Vaccinated teachers and students will not need to wear masks inside schools. This Friday, this was determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States when announcing its new guidelines on COVID-19, considerably less strict than those in force.
The changes come as part of a national immunization campaign in which children up to 12 years of age can be vaccinated and a general decline in hospitalizations and deaths from this disease. "We are at a new point in the pandemic that we are all excited about," so the time has come to update the guidelines, said Erin Sauber-Schatz, who leads the CDC task force that prepares recommendations aimed at at at protecting Americans from COVID-19.
Currently, the country's main public health agency does not advise schools to require the vaccination of teachers and children who qualify. And it's not offering guidance on how teachers can know which students are vaccinated or how parents will know which teachers are immunized.
This is likely to create conflict in school settings, said Elizabeth Stuart, a John Hopkins University, public health professor. She has children in elementary and middle schools. "It would be a very strange dynamic for some children to wear masks and others not. And keep track of that? Teachers shouldn't have to keep track of which kids should wear masks," he said.
Another possible headache is that according to the CDC, schools must continue to separate students and their desks one meter apart in classrooms. But the agency emphasized that space should not be an obstacle for children to return to school. And he said that distancing is not necessary between students or staff who are fully vaccinated.
All of this can be difficult to implement, which is why the CDC advises schools to make the decisions they deem best, Sauber-Schatz said. The biggest questions will arise in secondary schools, where some students can be vaccinated and others cannot. If sorting out those that are inoculated and those that are not too cumbersome, managers might choose to maintain a mask policy for everyone.
"The guide is written to allow flexibility at the local level," Sauber-Schatz said. In fact, in some of the nation's largest school districts, the widespread use of masks is expected to continue this fall.
In Detroit public schools, everyone will be required to bring unless all students in the classroom are vaccinated. Philadelphia will require all public school students and staff to wear face masks inside buildings, even if they are vaccinated. Instead, it will not be required in Houston schools.
At the beginning of the pandemic, health authorities feared that schools would become cauldrons for contagion of coronavirus and that they would trigger outbreaks in the community. But studies have shown that they tend to have less transmission than the surrounding community when certain preventive measures are followed.
In March, the CDC stopped recommending that children and their desks be one and a half meters apart, reducing the distance to one meter and dropped the provision of using plastic shields. In May, the agency said Americans, in general, don't have to be so cautious about masks and outdoor distancing and that fully vaccinated people don't need them in most situations. So that change was incorporated into the updated guidance for summer camps and now for schools.