Physicians group advises masks in schools for everyone older than 2; Different than CDC

Tracking Coronavirus

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The American Academy of Pediatrics updates guidance for the 2021-22 school year, which includes wearing masks indoors, as well as in-person learning, and vaccinations.

The masking recommendation is in direct contrast to guidance released by the Centers for Disease Control last month. The CDC’s latest guidelines said vaccinated teachers and students don’t need to wear masks inside school buildings.

In contrast, the AAP said it strongly recommends everyone older than age 2 wears masks, regardless of vaccination status. The AAP does support the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for building ventilation, testing, quarantining, cleaning and disinfection in the updated guidance.

“We need to prioritize getting children back into schools alongside their friends and their teachers — and we all play a role in making sure it happens safely,” Sonja O’Leary, MD, FAAP, chair of the AAP Council on School Health, said in a news release. “The pandemic has taken a heartbreaking toll on children, and it’s not just their education that has suffered but their mental, emotional and physical health. Combining layers of protection that include vaccinations, masking and clean hands hygiene will make in-person learning safe and possible for everyone.”

AAP defended it’s recommendation on universal masking because students under the age of 12 are not eligible for vaccines, and masking is proven to reduce transmission of the virus and to protect those who are not vaccinated. The AAP said it also believes many schools will not have a system to monitor vaccine status of students, teachers and staff, and some communities overall have low vaccination uptake where the virus may be circulating more prominently.

The physician’s group said data supports opening schools generally does not significantly increase community transmission with masking and other safety measures in place. Recently, COVID-19 variants have emerged in both Missouri and other states. Health experts in Kansas City said the Delta variant may increase the risk of transmission and result in worsening illness.

Other recommendations included in the AAP guidance are:

  • Schools should be prepared to adopt an all-encompassing approach for mental health support. 
  • Adequate and timely COVID-19 testing resources must be available and accessible.
  • Strategies should be revised and adapted depending on the level of viral transmission and test positivity rate throughout the community and schools..
  • School policies should be adjusted to align with new information about the pandemic; administrators should refine approaches when specific policies are not working.[i] 
  • School districts must be in close communication and coordinate with state and/or local public health authorities, school nurses, local pediatric practitioners, and other medical experts.

Phizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is approved for anyone age 12 and older. Children’s Mercy Hospital is holding walk-in vaccinations at Children’s Mercy’s Campus and it’s Broadway location. Vaccines will be given on the following schedule:

  • Monday – Thursday
    • 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Friday
    • 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Retail pharmacies and county health departments also have vaccination appointments available.

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