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CDC Updates School Guidelines, Vaccinated Students and Staff Don’t Need Masks

The agency is making the safe return to school in the fall their top priority.

On Friday, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that they are updating their guidance for K-12 schools, stating that the safe return in the fall is a top priority for the public health agency.

In the updated guidelines, fully vaccinated students and staff will no longer need to wear masks in any setting. It is still recommended that unvaccinated individuals continue to wear their masks indoors, but do not need to do so when outside.

However, everyone, regardless of vaccination status, should still continue to wear a mask when on school buses or other forms of public transportation.

The guidelines also emphasize the importance of getting kids vaccinated.

"For families who haven't gotten their kids vaccinated yet, now is the time," Erin Sauber-Schatz, lead for the Community Interventions and Critical Populations Task Force at the CDC said. "It takes five weeks to get fully vaccinated. If you got your first shot today, the second would be July 30 and you'd be fully vaccinated on August 13. So now's the time if you haven't gotten vaccinated yet."

In May, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expanded the authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to include kids aged 12 to 15. So far, just 1 out of 3 kids between the ages of 12 to 17 have received a shot in the United States.

As of now, children under the age of 12 are not eligible for vaccination against COVID-19.

The new guidelines include:

  • No one at schools needs to wear masks at recess or in most other outdoor situations. However, unvaccinated people are advised to wear masks if they are in a crowd for an extended period of time, like in the stands at a football game.
  • Ventilation and handwashing continue to be important. Students and staff also should stay home when they are sick.
  • Testing remains an important way to prevent outbreaks. But the CDC also says people who are fully vaccinated do not need to participate in such screening.
  • Separating students into smaller groups, or cohorts, continues to be a good way to help reduce spread of the virus. But the CDC discouraged putting vaccinated and unvaccinated kids in separate groups, saying schools shouldn’t stigmatize any group or perpetuate academic, racial or other tracking.

"The guidance confirms two truths: that students learn better in the classroom, and that vaccines remain our best bet to stop the spread of this virus and get our kids and educators fully back to those classrooms for in-person learning," Randi Weingarten president of the American Federation of Teachers (ATF) said. "It also makes clear that masking is important in the absence of vaccination."