Maui Coronavirus Updates

CDC: New Mask Advice for Vaccinated Teachers and Students

By JD Pells
July 9, 2021, 4:25 PM HST
* Updated July 12, 5:46 PM
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Vaccinated K-12 teachers, students and staff no longer need to wear masks under new guidance issued today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The advice comes amid rising vaccinations rates and a general decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.

The advice omits children and young adults under 12 years old, who are currently ineligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. The health agency said they should still wear masks in schools. That is the case for now, though vaccine manufacturers Phizer and Moderna have already announced they are conducting trials in healthy children between the ages of six months and 11 years old.

The CDC is not advising schools to require vaccination shots to prevent bullying and other social complications. Schools should make their own determination on mask rules, as proving vaccination status could be too difficult for schools to monitor, according to the CDC.

Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association president, Osa Tui, Jr., echoed these concerns in an HSTA announcement today, adding, “there are still a lot of unanswered questions about how today’s CDC guidance will be implemented.”

Tui noted the HSTA’s belief in science and the importance of in-person learning, but said, “given these unanswered questions, it’s in the best interest of everyone to wear masks when they are indoors until we reach herd immunity.”

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Determinations have not been made by the State of Hawaiʻi Department of Education since the CDC’s latest advice.

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So far, California and Virginia have policies requiring all students to wear masks at school regardless of vaccination, and governors and lawmakers in some other states, including in Arizona, Iowa and Texas, have allowed local school officials to decide.

Updates about plans for Hawaiʻi’s next school year will be discussed at the next Board of Education meeting on Thursday, July 15, according to the HSTA.

The new CDC guidance is the latest revision to advice it began suggesting for schools last year. The CDC stopped recommending that children and their desks be spaced 6 feet apart, shrinking the distance to 3 feet and dropped its call for use of plastic shields in March.

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The CDC’s new schools guidance says:

  • No one at schools needs to wear masks at recess or in most other outdoor situations. However, unvaccinated people are advised to wear masks if they are in a crowd for an extended period of time, like in the stands at a football game.
  • Ventilation and handwashing continue to be important. Students and staff also should stay home when they are sick.
  • Testing remains an important way to prevent outbreaks. But the CDC also says people who are fully vaccinated do not need to participate in such screening.
  • Separating students into smaller groups, or cohorts, continues to be a good way to help reduce the spread of the virus. But the CDC discouraged putting vaccinated and unvaccinated kids in separate groups, saying schools shouldn’t stigmatize any group or perpetuate academic, racial or other tracking.
JD Pells
JD is a multimedia journalist from Kula, HI. He is currently earning his degree in journalism at Texas Christian University.
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