SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Everyone over the age of 2 should wear a face mask inside schools regardless of vaccination status, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended.
The group said it’s because “a significant portion” of the student population is not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccines, in new guidance that came out Monday. It would also be difficult for schools to track the vaccination status when they have different rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated students, AAP added.
At this time, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is only authorized for emergency use for children as young as 12 years old.
“Universal masking is the best and most effective strategy to create consisent messages, expectations, enforcement, and compliance without the added burden of needing to monitor vaccination status,” AAP said.
The group also includes concern for the more-contagious delta variant as a reason for everyone to wear masks in schools, regardless of vaccination status.
The CDC recently released a report of a COVID-19 delta variant outbreak at an Oklahoma gymnastics facility, in which 17 of the 47 people who tested positive were fully vaccinated. The age range of people infected was 5 years old to 58 years old, and included 23 gymnasts, three staff members, and 21 of their household contacts.
This report gives insight into how the delta variant can spread among fully vaccinated people when they are around unvaccinated people. The CDC, however, has called the recent uptick in cases a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.“
While breakthrough cases have been documented, hospitalizations and deaths linked to COVID-19 and the delta variant are almost all in unvaccinated people.
“I think having a body like the American Academy of Pediatrics make the statement that they did is really important,” Dr. Rosemary Olivero, a pediatric infectious disease doctor at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, told News 8 Monday. “We want to focus not only on children’s health and well-being and their ability to stay within schools without disruptions to operations because of COVID-19 outbreaks, but then remembering the scope of the pandemic in general, remembering that children are making up the majority of unvaccinated persons and they really are the areas where new variants could run free.”
The AAP encourages several safety protocols layered up with universal masking when schools resume, such as vaccination, proper ventilation, testing, quarantining, and cleaning and disinfecting. The AAP is also urging all eligible people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Overall, the group believes it’s best to make schools in-person as safe as possible, so that the majority of students could be physically present for classes.
The CDC’s K-12 guidance has only emphasized mask wearing for those who are not fully vaccinated, as well as keeping unvaccinated students at a 3 ft distance.