California will continue to require vaccinated students and teachers to wear masks in schools, despite new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention deeming it unnecessary.
State health officials said that mandating masks for all students and teachers would ensure that unvaccinated individuals do not feel they are being treated unfairly. The Food and Drug Administration has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for all Americans ages 12 and up.
“At the outset of the new year, students should be able to walk into school without worrying about whether they will feel different or singled out for being vaccinated or unvaccinated,” California Health & Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in a statement. “Treating all kids the same will support a calm and supportive school environment.”
The updated CDC guidance, released on Friday, recommends that all students and teachers return to in-person learning while implementing as many coronavirus mitigation strategies as are feasible. If one mitigation strategy is not feasible, such as socially distancing students, the CDC recommends keeping schools open and to “layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as indoor masking.”
California’s Department of Public health said that, in addition to treating “all students the same,” the masking requirement functions as an additional “layer” of coronavirus mitigation since “many of California’s school facilities can’t accommodate physical distancing.”
The announcement by the CDC came after a year in which most American students participated in virtual or hybrid remote and in-person learning programs. By the beginning of June, 54 percent of public schools had returned to full in-person learning, with another 45 percent in hybrid learning, according to the American Enterprise Institute’s “Return to Learn” tracker.
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