17 Senate Republicans say mask requirements are ‘unnecessary’ in Head Start programs

Masks are still required for children 2 years and older, which these government officials argue is an overreaching mandate.

Since the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s decision to update federal COVID-19 guidelines in August, many schools have nearly scrapped all of their safety restrictions in an effort to leave COVID in the past.

According to a tweet released Tuesday by Burbio, a consumer engagement and business intelligence platform, there are no longer mask mandates in place for students among the top 500 school districts in the nation. “With Newark Public Schools removing the district’s mask mandate, the number of Top 500 School districts with a mask mandate for students is now zero,” the tweet reads.

Yet, masks are still required for children and staff in Head Start programs, a federal initiative aimed to promote school readiness among children from birth to age 5 from low-income families. According to their website’s COVID-19 updates, universal masking is required for children who are 2 years and older under an HHS interim final rule (IFR) as of January 31, 2022.

In a letter addressed to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, 17 Senate Republicans express their frustrations over the ruling: “We write to highlight how unnecessary these mandates continue to be and request that this IFR be rescinded immediately,” it reads.

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On May 3, 2022, the U.S. Senate passed a joint resolution that would dismiss the IFR through a bipartisan vote of 55 to 41, including the support from seven Democrats. However, prior to this resolution, President Biden committed to a veto: “…the Administration strongly opposes Senate Joint Resolution 39, which would expose children, families, and early learning professionals to unnecessary risk. If Congress were to pass this resolution, the President would veto it.”

Biden’s commitment to veto, which he made in May, came before the CDC approved of COVID-19 vaccines for children six months to 5 years old, which is one of the primary arguments made in the letter from Senate Republicans.

“The IFR continues to be an overly rigid, inflexible rule that complicated individual Head Start programs’ ability to operate and attract staff volunteers—though there is a preliminary injunction against the IFR in multiple states—and we request that you immediately rescind it,” according to the letter.

Micah Ward
Micah Wardhttp://districtadministration.com
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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