Everyone older than 2 should wear masks in schools regardless of vaccination status, pediatrician group says
Everyone older than 2 years old should wear masks in schools regardless of vaccination status, according to updated guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
This recommendation is in addition to the AAP urging all students, teachers and staff to receive the vaccination against COVID-19 if eligible.
"We need to prioritize getting children back into schools alongside their friends and their teachers -- and we all play a role in making sure it happens safely," said Sonja O'Leary, M.D., FAAP, chair of the AAP Council on School Health. "The pandemic has taken a heartbreaking toll on children, and it's not just their education that has suffered but their mental, emotional and physical health. Combining layers of protection that include vaccinations, masking and clean hands hygiene will make in-person learning safe and possible for everyone."
The AAP recommends universal mask-wearing because a significant portion of the student population is not yet eligible for vaccines and wearing a mask is proven to reduce the transmission of the virus and to protect those who are not vaccinated.
"Anybody from primary or secondary school they recommend that they be masked," says Dr. John Zaso, a pediatrician in East Meadow. "That decision hasn't come down officially yet from the state authorities so the individual districts right now are still going to have that flexibility."
This guidance comes just weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that vaccinated teachers and students do not need to wear masks inside of school buildings.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, asked about a potential mandate to enforce mask use both indoors and outdoors in New York City during Monday's COVID-19 update, said the focus is on pushing for more people to get vaccinated, and there will be no new mask mandate.
"Masks have value, unquestionably," the mayor says. "But masks are not going at the route of the problem, vaccination is. So. we do not intend a mask mandate, we do intend to double down on vaccination."
Dr. David A. Chokshi, the commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, emphasized that the indoor mask mandate is still in place in schools, public transit and other high-risk settings, and that people should continue to wear masks in these places regardless of vaccination status. The COVID-19 delta variant now makes up 69 percent of cases in New York City, according to Chokshi.