CDC Recommends Masks For All K-12 Students, Even Those Who Are Vaccinated

by Christina Marfice

Schools are set to fully open this fall, but the CDC has officially recommended that all students wear masks — even if they’ve been vaccinated

In just one month, Americans who refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine have set the country back months in its fight against the pandemic. Fewer than half of all Americans have received a shot, and with the delta variant driving up infections and hospitalizations in all 50 states, the CDC is walking back on concessions that it made when cases reached a low point a month ago. Now, the agency is once again recommending masks for vaccinated adults indoors, and, according to new guidance, for all K-12 students when school starts this fall, regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19.

CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky stressed that schools are encouraged to fully reopen this fall, but that the proper safety precautions are necessary to doing so. Among them: Masks for everyone in schools, even those who have been vaccinated.

“CDC recommends that everyone in K-12 schools wear a mask indoors, including teachers, staff, students and visitors regardless of vaccination status,” she said in a statement to reporters.

President Joe Biden also spoke about the new guidance, saying he knows going back to masks will be a disappointment to many kids, parents, and school staff.

“Today, the CDC also reaffirmed that we can safely reopen schools this fall — full time,” he said. “Masking students is inconvenient, I know, but will allow them to learn and be with their classmates with the best available protection.”

This guidance comes after a number of states have passed legislation saying schools cannot mandate masks for their students or staff.

The part that both Walensky and Biden left out of their remarks is that this is completely avoidable. COVID vaccines have been widely available, for free, for all Americans since May — even April in many states. But delta is surging because, to date, more than 30 percent of eligible adults have dragged their feet or outright refused to be vaccinated. The pandemic could truly be over, if everyone got a vaccine. But here we are.

The CDC’s announcement came after the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement last week, saying it recommended masks for anyone older than 2 going back to schools, preschools, and daycares this fall. When asked if the CDC would ever call for mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations, Walensky said that’s a decision that needs to be made by private businesses and local governments.

“We’re encouraging really any activities that would motivate further vaccination,” she said. “Not all communities are going to be be responsive to a mandate in the same way.”