The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued new mask guidelines requiring all people, including fully vaccinated individuals, to wear a mask indoors, especially in places with high virus transmission rates and low vaccination rates. It includes schools across the United States.
In a statement, the agency's director, Rochelle P. Walensky, said that they are recommending all K-12 schools to enforce mask wearing for the students, teachers, staff, and visitors "regardless of vaccination status." The new guidance replaces the CDC's previous statement in May 2021, stating that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks.
Walensky stressed that the change was brought on by emerging data showing that the Delta variant has caused 80 percent of the new infections in the U.S. The CDC said that some vaccinated individuals who have contracted the Delta variant might be contagious.
"This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendation," the director said.
President Biden Supports CDC
To be clear, the vaccines work to contain the spread of COVID-19 but vaccinated people could still have the infection without the worrying symptoms and dangerous outcomes. They can still pass the virus to the vulnerable.
The change in the guidance comes as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) set its guidelines for schools reopening this fall season to let everyone wear a mask to ensure everyone's safety. Top doctors in the country have also been calling for the CDC to alter its initial recommendations.
Following the CDC's latest call, President Joe Biden said that the mask guidelines would allow for schools in the U.S. to safely reopen full time and in time. The president said that he understands if some parents, students, and school staff may be disappointed by the recommendation, but it will provide "the best available protection" for the kids and the unvaccinated.
Vaccination Incentives at Universities
Meanwhile, with the Delta variant's rapid spread, colleges in the U.S. are launching incentives for students who have been vaccinated. Some schools are giving out "prizes" in the form of scholarships lotteries, free parking opportunities, school fees discounts, giveaways, and gift certificates. The Department of Education has also established a College Vaccine Challenge supporting the incentives.
However, the vaccination requirements in some states have triggered confusion for parents and students. For instance, in Texas, private universities can require students to get vaccinated, but public universities have to abide by state laws, which can punish establishments or institutions that ask for "vaccine passports." In New York, public universities acknowledged that they could not mandate students to get vaccinated due to religious reasons. However, private schools can.
In Alabama and Florida, which have high infection rates, vaccination isn't required for college students. In Georgia, only eight universities have mandated vaccination out of the over 70 universities.
A federal government agency's lack of a clear directive could stir legal action or complaints from the students, parents, or groups. Thus, universities are challenged to implement solid plans to safely reopen this fall.
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