COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new recommendations for masks in schools during a briefing Tuesday afternoon.
The new recommendations include K-12 schools requiring masks for both vaccinated and unvaccinated children, staff and teachers, the Associated Press reported. The CDC also recommended that even vaccinated people wear masks indoors in areas where the virus is spreading, such as Missouri.
"AC recommends that everyone in cases were indoors, including teachers, staff, and visitors, regardless of vaccinations," said Dr. Rochelle Walensky with the CDC. "Children should return, full-time in-person learning in the fall with proper prevention strategies in place."
Waleksy said they are reversing their previous guidelines because there has been an increase in delta variant cases and less people are vaccinated than the CDC expected.
"We have many school systems that are starting around the country, and I think we all agree that children 11 and less are not going to be able to be vaccinated, and with only 30% of our kids between 12 and 17 fully vaccinated now more cases in this country and our real efforts to try and make sure that our kids can safely get back in-person learning in the fall," Walensky said.
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released its guidance for reopening schools Friday. It focused on keeping students in person and said decisions on masks in schools are best made by local officials.
Jim Jones, superintendent of Blair Oak schools, said the announcement came as news to him, but they will be considering CDC guidelines as well as what other schools are doing in their future decisions.
"Everything will be considered moving forward," Jones said. "Saying that everyone is going to do exactly the same thing is maybe unrealistic."
A spokesperson for Southern Boone County School District said in an email they are not currently considering a mask mandate because they're cases remain low.
"Policies regarding masks should be made at the discretion of the local boards of education, after consideration of community transmission and positivity rates within a community, and should be considered for adjustment as public health circumstances dictate," the email read. "Such policies should be developed with consultation of state and/or local health authorities, as statutory and regulatory authority to mitigate risk of transmission, up to and including school closures, remains within their jurisdiction."
John Potter, a parent with three children enrolled in Columbia Public Schools, said he believes masks take away from the overall school experience and take a toll on his children's mental and social well-being.
"As a parent, I think we need to we need to have the choice to mask, and the recommendations from the CDC just help the government take away choice for parents," Potter said.
Dr. Chris Wihelm with Missouri University Healthcare said he doesn't like wearing his mask either, but it prevents the spread of the more-contagious delta variant.
"It's disheartening, yes to see more people getting sick," Wihelm said. "I'm tired of wearing my mask, I really am, but we just have to take precautions until this thing is truly over with."
CPS follows the most recent guidance from the CDC, updated July 9, which asks unvaccinated individuals 2 years and older to wear masks when indoors. It's not clear yet how Tuesday's announcement will affect plans for the fall at CPS.
A senior health official at the White House said the updated guidelines are because of the more contagious delta variant, according to CNN. The latest information from the CDC shows the delta variant makes up 89.9% of cases in Missouri. The state is also among the top for most cases per capita over the past several weeks.