Why we all agree on in-person instruction but not masks or vaccines

With the Delta variant rising, the response from various state officials has been all over the map
By: | July 22, 2021
(Photo: Fresno USD)

With COVID safety policies varying by state, district, and school, President Joe Biden expects masks for some while Dr. Anthony Fauci raised the prospect of K-12 vaccine mandates.

And some states insist neither masks nor vaccines will be required.

Biden said at a CNN town hall in Cincinnati that kids older than 12 who are fully vaccinated should not wear masks, but he acknowledged that it could be difficult for some school districts to determine who is and is not vaccinated. “It’s going to get a little bit tight in terms of, well, are mom or dad being honest that Johnny did or did not get vaccinated? That’s going to raise questions,” Biden said. “It’s a matter of community responsibility.”

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Biden also said that children under the age of 12 could be eligible for the vaccine in the next few months, CNN reported.

And Fauci told CBS that there’s a strong likelihood that K-12 schools will eventually mandate coronavirus vaccines, The Hill reported. “I would not be surprised that in the future this is something that would be seriously considered depending on how we handle the outbreak,” he said, according to The Hill. 

No consensus on masks

With the Delta variant raising concerns from coast to coast, the only thing officials seem to agree on is that a full return to in-person instruction is essential.

The American Academy of Pediatrics said last week that districts may have to require vaccinations and also urged all students and teachers to keep wearing masks, despite their vaccination status. Earlier this month, the CDC recommended only unvaccinated individuals wear masks in school.

The response from various states has been all over the map.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Wednesday strongly encouraged, but did not mandate, schools to require students in kindergarten through 8th grade to wear masks indoors.

Health officials in the state said the Delta variant has hit unvaccinated residents hard.

“The most important work our state will do next month is getting all our school children back into the classrooms safely for in-person learning,” Cooper said. “That’s the best way for them to learn, and we want their school days to be as close to normal as possible, especially after a year of disruption.”

Elementary schools in Virginia have been encouraged to require masks for all students, teachers and staff in new guidance from the state’s health and education departments. The agencies also recommended that unvaccinated individuals in middle and high schools also wear masks indoors.

“As schools prepare to welcome students back for the 2021-2022 school year, our priority is safely providing in-person instruction so that each and every child can learn and thrive in the classroom,” said Dr. James Lane, superintendent of public instruction. “With this latest guidance and ample federal pandemic relief funds available to school divisions, our local school leaders are equipped to implement appropriate mitigation strategies and ensure student and staff safety within the schools in their communities.”

But Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said no children will be forced to wear masks in the coming school year, according to NBCDFW.com.

“There will be no mask mandate imposed, and the reasons for that are very clear,” Abbott said, according to the website. “There are so many people who have immunities to COVID, whether it be through the vaccination, whether it be through their own exposure and their recovery from it, which would be acquired immunity, that it would be inappropriate to require people who already have immunity to wear a mask.”