Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York public school students will be required to continue wearing masks upon returning to classrooms in the fall despite the latest CDC guidelines that vaccinated children and teachers can go mask-free.
‘For now we’re sticking with the idea that wearing the masks is a smart thing to do in schools,’ de Blasio said during his daily press briefing Monday morning. ‘We’ll keep assessing as we go along, but for now it still makes sense.’
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday that schools should fully reopen in the fall.
Official guidance is that masks should be worn indoors by anyone over age two – both pupils and staff – if they are not fully vaccinated – but leaves the option for vaccinated people to go mask-free.
‘Students benefit from in-person learning, and safely returning to in-person instruction in the fall 2021 is a priority,’ the agency wrote.
The guidance adds: ‘In most settings, people who are fully vaccinated can safely resume activities they did before the pandemic.’
The mayor said he has read the CDC recommendation but would prefer to play it safe ‘given everything the city’s been through.’
‘I’m absolutely confident based on this guidance and everything else we’ve seen that we’ll be able to get all our kids back into school in September, but for now sticking with the idea that, you know, wearing the masks is a smart thing to do in schools,’ he said. ‘We’ll keep assessing as we go along. But I think for now it still makes sense.’
Mayor Bill de Blasio taps elbows with a masked New York City Public School student last September
CDC recommendations include all unvaccinated children ages two and older wear masks and that desks are placed at least three feet apart
The CDC said that school districts should use data from their local health departments to determine when to tighten or loosen public health measures.
NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said he was still reviewing the new CDC recommendations and would work with the city Department of Education to come up with guidance for schools, parents and students before the fall semester.
‘What I will say is that the CDC guidance mirrors the layered approach to prevention of COVID-19 that has worked in our schools thus far,’ he said. ”And the key in that layered approach is to use all the tools that we have in our toolbox.’
While the CDC said vaccinated kids are okay without masks, they acknowledged that many schools serve children under the age of 12 who are not eligible for vaccination at this time and therefore encouraged schools to promote COVID-19 vaccination by ‘providing information, encouraging vaccine trust and confidence, and establishing supportive policies and practices that make getting vaccinated as easy and convenient as possible.’
The agency added if social distancing prevents schools from reopening, then officials are advised to use other measures such as regular testing and increased ventilation.
The mayor said he has read the CDC recommendation but would prefer to play it safe ‘given everything the city’s been through’
Children make up 14% of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S. but just 0.1% of all deaths, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics
Although children can contract COVID-19 and pass it on to adults, they are much less likely to fall severely ill and die.
Currently, children under age 18 make up 14 percent of all cases to date and just 0.1 percent of all Covid-related deaths in the U.S., according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Polls suggest that parents are 50/50 about vaccinating children with a recent CDC report suggesting 56 percent of parents 12-to-17-year-olds plan to vaccinate their children.
‘For the first time, I really think they hit it on the nose,’ Dr Benjamin Linas, an infectious disease specialist at Boston University told The New York Times.
‘I think it’s science-based and right on the mark. I don’t want to send my 11-year-old to school without a mask yet, because Delta is out there.
‘And even if she’s not going to get severe Covid from Delta, I’m not ready to take that risk.’
Dr Erin Sauber-Schatz, a Commander in the United States Public Health Service, who helped write the CDC guidance, told The Times the recommendations started being drafted in May after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for ages 12 and up.
It relies on a multi-layered approach, meaning using several strategies to help combat the spread of COVID-19 in classrooms.
This includes masks, social distancing, symptoms screenings, contact tracing, increasing ventilation, hand-washing and making sure anyone with signs of illness stays home.