At the end of last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidance on wearing masks, significantly easing recommendations for most of the country, including in schools. In response to the CDC’s new rules, many blue states that still mandated masks in schools announced they would end the requirement, including New York, California, Oregon, and Washington. Now, the only state not planning to end its school mask mandate by mid-march is Hawaii.
The development was particularly confusing for parents of schoolchildren, since the American Academy of Pediatrics and the president of the American Medical Association continue to recommend masking in schools — and a week before the CDC’s announcement, the agency’s director had said the CDC had no immediate plans to update its guidance. Polls have shown strong support for school mask mandates, and in January, teachers and students all over the country led demonstrations calling for even stronger COVID safety protocols. Strong opinions on the issue and conflicting directives put further pressure on the country’s already overwhelmed teaching staff. A recent survey of U.S. teachers found that more than half were on the brink of leaving their jobs over pandemic stress.
Even more worrisome for parents and teachers: Last week, new data revealed the Pfizer vaccine, the only option approved for children ages 5 to 11, protected against hospitalization but offered almost no protection against infection for this age group.
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