SAN FRANCISCO (KRON/WBTW) — Everyone over the age of 2 should wear a face mask inside schools – regardless of vaccination status, according to a recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
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 on 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.
South Carolina schools, however, are under the 2021-2022 General Appropriations Bill, which says schools are prevented from “requiring face coverings in schools.”
News13 reached out to Governor McMaster to see if the recommendation by the AAP would change his stance. His office said the governor, “wholeheartedly believes that a child’s use of a mask in school is something that should be decided by the student’s parents, and nobody else.” The governor remains steadfastly committed to that principle, Bryan Symmes, communication officer, said.
News13 reached out to the South Carolina Department of Education to see if the recommendation by the AAP would change the stance of the Superintendent on masks in schools; the department issued this statement:
“Since this is state law, there will not be any changes despite what public health recommendations may be put forth from various agencies and organizations.”
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.
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.