Why pediatricians want all students to keep wearing masks

Pediatricians urge more aggressive safety measures because many students are not eligible for the vaccine
By: | July 20, 2021
In updated COVID safety guidance, the American Academy of Pediatrics said in-person instruction was crucial.In updated COVID safety guidance, the American Academy of Pediatrics said in-person instruction was crucial.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says districts may have to require vaccinations and also urges students and teachers to keep wearing masks when the school year starts.

The updated guidance released by the Academy Monday is more aggressive than the CDC’s recommendations earlier this month that vaccinated individuals could dispense with masks in schools.

But like the CDC, the Academy stresses the importance of in-person instruction because of the inequities some students and families faced during online learning.

“As we start the 2021-’22 school year, a large portion of students are not eligible to be vaccinated and there are COVID variants that are more contagious,” said Dr. Sonja O’Leary, chair of the Academy’s Council on School Health Executive Committee. “Because of this and because we want to have all students in school, the AAP advocates for all students, teachers and staff to wear masks while indoors in school.”

District leaders should continue to urge staff and students to get vaccinated while masking, which will also prevent the spread of colds, flus and other respiratory diseases as in-person instruction resumes, the Academy said.

“Remote learning highlighted racial and social inequity—another important reason to get students back in school safely,” Dr. O’Leary said. “This pandemic and the last 18 months of remote learning have shown us the importance of physically being together, especially for children and adolescents.”

Meanwhile, school districts across the country are coming to different conclusions about whether to mandate masks when classes resume as the COVID Delta variant spreads and cases rise, particularly among unvaccinated Americans.

More from DA: Where vaccinated students will still wear masks in school 

The safety plan developed by Pittsburgh Public Schools officials, which will be voted on later this month, would mandate masks for students and teachers and three feet of social distancing, TribLive reported.

Superintendent Anthony Hamlet said the district will follow the CDC’s most recent guidelines to increase safety as students return for in-person instruction, according to TribLive.

But not so far away, in Maryland, district officials are making different plans for the new school year. While Baltimore City Public Schools will keep its mask mandate in place, nearby Harford County Public Schools has made face coverings optional, according to The Baltimore Sun

Elsewhere in Maryland, other administrators haven’t finalized COVID safety plans for 2021-22. District leaders in Howard and Anne Arundel counties said their classrooms cannot accommodate six feet of social distancing but haven’t yet decided on a mask mandate, The Baltimore Sun reported.