July 9 (Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday updated its guidelines for reopening U.S. schools in the fall, recommending indoor masks for anyone who are not fully vaccinated and three feet away in classrooms.
The agency said school administrators may choose to require the wearing of an indoor mask even for vaccinated students and educators, depending on the needs of the community. The reasons would include schools with children under 12, who are currently not allowed to receive COVID-19 vaccines, or high rates of COVID-19 transmission in the region.
“The advice reflects the fact that vaccination makes it easier to conduct school in person, which should be the default,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University. But that involves “a lot of hedging and calculating the risks,” he added.
The National Education Association, the largest teachers’ union in the United States, said the CDC’s updated guidelines provide a roadmap for students to return to school.
“Everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated must be vaccinated against COVID-19… Schools must consistently and rigorously use all recommended mitigation strategies,” NEA President Becky Pringle said in a statement.
Schools across the United States began closing in March 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold and many students switched to online learning from home. Critics had accused teacher unions of slowing reopens by demanding virus-mitigating practices, such as universal masking, fewer children in classrooms and social distancing. L1N2K12OT
The updated guidance is likely to trigger more debate about what is appropriate. Some regions have more stringent guidelines than others. The Los Angeles Unified School District, which made the wearing of masks mandatory for all students during the next school year.
“Most of the school debates have not been about science – they have really been linked to politics and teacher unions,” Adalja said.
The American Federation of Teachers, the second-largest teachers’ union in the United States, said the CDC’s new guidelines made sense and would help students return to class.
“The advice confirms two truths: that students learn better in the classroom and that vaccines are our best bet to stop the spread of this virus,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement.
The CDC said schools should rely on local health data when deciding to relax or tighten prevention strategies, including mask wear and physical distancing.
“Because of the importance of face-to-face learning, schools where not everyone is fully immunized should implement physical distancing to the extent possible within their facilities, but should not exclude students of in-person learning to maintain minimum distance required, ”the new management said.
The agency said the new guidelines are appropriate even with the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.
“What we have seen is that students are able to wear masks… If there is evidence of the spread of variants, the masks reduce the risk,” said Dr Nathaniel Beers, co-author of the school of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). opening guidelines.
He said the updated AAP guidelines will be announced in the coming weeks.
A CDC study released Friday showed that half of unvaccinated teens and parents of unvaccinated teens said they were unsure of getting the COVID-19 vaccine, or did not intend to. get one at all.
Nationally, according to CDC statistics on Friday, about 55% of the overall population and 67% of adults have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccination.
Report by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Dan Grebler and Aurora Ellis
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