CDC: Fully vaccinated students and teachers can drop masks

'Returning to in-person instruction in fall 2021 is a priority,' CDC says
By: | July 12, 2021
Classrooms may look a little more like they used to this fall with the CDC changing its guidance for fully-vaccinated students and teachers.Classrooms may look a little more like they used to this fall with the CDC changing its guidance for fully-vaccinated students and teachers.

Students, teachers and others who are not fully vaccinated should continue to wear masks as the nation prioritizes reopening schools, says the CDC’s updated COVID safety guidelines.

That means fully vaccinated individuals, despite the spread of the Delta variant, can return to classrooms and other school activities without the face coverings that have become a way of life during the pandemic.

“Students benefit from in-person learning, and safely returning to in-person instruction in fall 2021 is a priority,” the CDC said.

Over the last several months, many states have prohibited schools from forcing students to wear masks.

School mask tracker: Who is and isn’t loosening the rules

The CDC did not recommend requiring or mandating vaccinations. But agency officials reiterated that the now widely available shots are the No. 1 strategy for ending the pandemic and ensuring in-person learning—including extracurricular activities and sports—can resume safely.

The CDC also recommended maintaining 3 feet of physical distance in classrooms, along with COVID testing, ventilation upgrades, frequent handwashing and cleaning, and having individuals stay home when sick.

Schools officials should work with local authorities to monitor community transmission rates to determine what safety strategies need to be maintained.

“Many schools serve children under the age of 12 who are not eligible for vaccination at this time. Therefore, this guidance emphasizes implementing layered prevention strategies to protect people who are not fully vaccinated, including students, teachers, staff, and other members of their households,” the CDC said.

K-12 leaders applaud guidance

The updated guidance goes a long way in helping K-12 leaders reopen safely for the 2021-22 school year, said Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association.

“To a large extent, today’s guidance is a continuation of what we already know: the ability of a school district to get and keep its schools open for in-person instruction depends upon the ability and willingness of the broader community to do its part to limit COVID exposure and spread,” Domenech said.

“We applaud the guidance for its emphasis on the need for localities to monitor community transmission, vaccination coverage, screening testing and occurrence of outbreaks to guide decisions on the level of layered prevention strategies,” he added.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten called the updated guidance “grounded in both science and common sense.”

“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,” Weingarten said. Dozens of the union’s affiliates around the country are holding vaccine drives in their communities, she added.

“For educators across the country, this guidance sets a floor, not a ceiling; it builds on the evidence we have about COVID transmission and reminds us that we must remain committed to other mitigation strategies so every school building is safe and welcoming for all, including those who are still too young to be vaccinated and those who cannot be,” she said.