JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The American Academy of Pediatrics issued new COVID-19 guidance for schools Monday that supports students returning to in-person learning and suggests universal masking in schools of everyone over the age of 2.
“The AAP believes that, at this point in the pandemic, given what we know about low rates of in-school transmission when proper prevention measures are used, together with the availability of effective vaccines for those age 12 years and up, that the benefits of in-person school outweigh the risks in all circumstances,” the guidance says.
One of the prevention measures the AAP recommends that all students over the age of 2 and all school staff should wear masks unless they have a medical or developmental condition that prohibits this.
The mask recommendation is primarily because a significant proportion of the student population is not yet eligible for vaccination. Requiring all to wear masks will protect those who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 and reduce transmission and avoid the difficulty of monitoring or enforcing mask policies for only those who are not vaccinated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this month that vaccinated students do not have to wear masks in classrooms. Area school districts that have set policies for the new school year, starting next month, have made mask-wearing optional.
“In every respect, the CDC always leaves open the flexibility at the part of local agencies, local enterprises, local cities and states to make a judgment call based on the situation on the ground,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden. “So, I think that the American Academy of Pediatrics, you know, they’re a thoughtful group. They analyze the situation and if they feel that that’s the way to go, I think that’s a reasonable thing to do.”
Dr. Maria Mora, a doctor in Clay County, said she agrees with the new guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“Pediatricians, we deal with this virus every day. That’s 75 percent of our bread and butter,” Mora said. “We see that masks work and we need to stick to that guideline.”
According to a spokesperson for YMCA Camp Immokalee in Clay County, two of its campers went home last week with symptoms and later tested positive for the virus. Since Saturday, the camp has learned of nine more positive cases among the 110 campers that were sent home.
Mora believes there’s a chance with students going back to school in the fall that cases could rise again.
Additionally, other actions recommended by AAP include that all eligible individuals get vaccinated; that adequate and timely testing resources are available; and that strategies that are developed can be revised and adapted depending on the situation in the community.
“With the above principles in mind, the AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for school COVID-19 plans should start with a goal of keeping students safe and physically present in school,” the guidance says. “The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in 2020.”