Vaccinated teachers, students don’t need to wear masks in schools, CDC says

NYC child
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Vaccinated teachers and students do not need to wear masks while inside schools, according to updated COVID-19 health and safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The revised health and safety recommendations were posted to the CDC’s website early Friday morning and encourage localities to make a safe return to in-person learning a “priority” this fall.

Officials urge adults and children ages two and older who are not fully vaccinated to continue to wear masks indoors particularly in crowded spaces where social distance can not be kept, guidelines say.  And while schools should work to maintain at least three feet of distance between the un-vaccinated, administrators should not “exclude students from in-person learning to keep a minimum social distancing requirement.” 

The guideline changes come amid a national push to increase slowing vaccination rates among adults and a boost numbers among children 12 years and older who became eligible for the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine in late May.  Only 55.9 % of United States residents age 12 and older are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. In New York City, 57% of eligible residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine while 52% are fully vaccinated, according to City data. 

In the updated recommendations, the CDC continues to encourage schools to implement COVID screens, maintain proper ventilation in schools and require sick adults and children to isolate themselves at home in order to mitigate potential spread. School staff should also keep pandemic levels of cleaning and disinfection in place to keep school communities safe, the guidelines add. 

Last month, the New York State Department of Health relaxed mask-wearing requirements at summer camps and scrapped the requirement in summer schools earlier this week. The state has not made a decision yet on whether it will continue with mask mandate in schools this fall and is currently reviewing the CDC’s new guidance, according department spokesperson Jill Montag. The New York City Department of Education has previously said it would continue to require masks in schools but it is unclear with they will change course to follow new CDC recommendations. 

Meanwhile, the city’s teacher union, the United Federation of Teachers, which has played a powerful role in City public school health and safety policy, is currently unpacking the new recommendations. “We will be reviewing the CDC’s recommendations and having conversations with our independent medical experts, as well as meeting with the City and State agencies that are responsible for deciding how to proceed,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in an email.