The CDC issued guidance Tuesday recommending that everyone in K-12 schools — including students, teachers, and staff — wear a mask regardless of vaccination status. The previous existing CDC guidance suggested that all people age 2 and older who are not fully vaccinated wear masks at school.
A preview of the guidance obtained by Bloomberg said that children should resume in-person, full-time instruction in the fall semester with precautionary measures.
The prevailing science indicates that children are a low-risk demographic for developing severe COVID cases and therefore do not spread the disease, making schools one of the least likely sources of infection for a local community.
In a statement released Tuesday shortly after the CDC’s notice went public, President Biden wrote, “Today, the CDC also reaffirmed that we can safely reopen schools this fall—full time. Masking students is inconvenient, I know, but will allow them to learn and be with their classmates with the best available protection.”
The CDC also advised some Americans already vaccinated against COVID to continue to wear face coverings indoors, a directive presumably motivated by the rising caseloads attributable to the spread of the Delta variant. Unvaccinated Americans are believed to be largely responsible for the surge in cases, and the CDC reported that the delta variant accounts for 83 percent of all sequenced COVID-19 cases in the U.S.
CNN first reported the CDC update, which CDC director Rochelle Walensky officially announced at a press conference Tuesday.
The vaccines have proven to decouple COVID cases from COVID deaths. So although some people may contract a breakthrough infection and test positive for the virus after getting vaccinated, they are unlikely to have a breakthrough disease, or experience significant illness that may require hospitalization.
However, evidence is mounting that vaccinated people may still be able to transmit the virus despite mild symptoms, indicated by the similarity of virus concentration in breakthrough cases in both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals who become infected, an administrative health official told CNN.
During the briefing, Walensky said, “In rare occasions some vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant after vaccination may be contagious.” She affirmed that vaccination still reduces breakthroughs with symptoms by a large quantity.
Many states and localities relaxed their mask mandates amid mass vaccine distribution and lower transmission rates in recent months. Highly-populated areas like Los Angeles county recently reinstated its mask requirement for public indoor places.
Walensky’s comments represent a reversal from the CDC’s May announcement that fully vaccinated individuals could forgo a mask in most indoor social settings and venues.