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Masks to be required at schools regardless of vaccination status

 

Last updated 8/4/2021 at 7:06am



Everyone who enters Lake Roosevelt Schools’ indoor areas this year should expect to wear a mask regardless of vaccination status, including staff, students, and visitors. Grand Coulee Dam School District Superintendent Paul Turner told The Star on Monday that he intends to follow the masks-for-all guidelines from the Washington State Department of Health and State Superintendent Chris Reykdal.

The DOH guidelines state that “all staff and students must continue to wear face coverings/masks, regardless of vaccination status.” 

A letter from Reykdal to superintendents and school directors in the state says that “these critical public health actions, including masking for now, are not at the discretion of local boards or local superintendents,” citing his own authority, the governor’s, and that of health authorities. “We’re going to go by what the DOH and state says,” Turner said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the indoor masking for everyone over the age of 2, regardless of vaccination status, because of evidence the Delta variant of Covid is more easily transmissible and can even infect and be spread by vaccinated people, although their risks from the disease are less than risks for those who are unvaccinated.

Previously, on July 9, the CDC had said that vaccinated people didn’t need to wear masks in schools.

“My primary goal is to make sure our children can safely get back to full-time, in-person learning and stay there for the school year,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in an interview published on healthline.com. “With that goal in mind, recognizing we don’t have a vaccine for 11 and under, that currently only about 31 percent of our 12- to 17-year-olds are vaccinated, and with that information from our summer school outbreak investigations, the majority of people in schools right now will not be vaccinated. That coupled with the fact that we have this new data that even vaccinated people can transmit, and our deep desire to keep our children in school. That is what led to our updated guidance to have masks in all schools this year.”

“We’re trying to be as normal as possible,” Turner said about doing in-person learning. “We’re trying to educate kids. The bottom line is we can’t have a year like last year. These kids need an education. We all know being in front of teachers is the best way to get an education.”

The CDC also recommends 3 feet of social distance within schools, lowered from 6 feet last year.

“When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, such as when schools cannot fully re-open while maintaining these distances,” the CDC website reads, “it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as indoor masking.”

“Screening testing, ventilation, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, staying home when sick and getting tested, contact tracing in combination with quarantine and isolation, and cleaning and disinfection are also important layers of prevention to keep schools safe,” the CDC site says.

About the 3-foot requirement, Turner said, “It needs to happen in order to be back full time. So we’re going to have our classrooms set up as normal. Where it will come into an issue is if we have somebody that is positive. …  If we have an outbreak, or someone positive, it will be more than that kid going home.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees with the recommendations. 

They encourage everyone eligible to get the vaccine to do so. 

“It may become necessary for schools to collect COVID-19 vaccine information of staff and students and for schools to require COVID-19 vaccination for in-person learning,” their site says.

The AAP website also explains their stance on the importance of in-person learning. 

“Remote learning highlighted inequities in education, was detrimental to the educational attainment of students of all ages, and exacerbated the mental health crisis among children and adolescents,” their website says. “The AAP believes that, at this point in the pandemic, given what we know about low rates of in-school transmission when proper prevention measures are used, together with the availability of effective vaccines for those age 12 years and up, that the benefits of in-person school outweigh the risks in almost all circumstances. … Schools and school-supported programs are fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being and provide our children and adolescents with academic instruction; social and emotional skills, safety, reliable nutrition, physical/occupational/speech therapy, mental health services, health services, and opportunities for physical activity, among other benefits.”

 

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