CDC recommends unvaccinated individuals wear masks indoors at K-12 schools

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch
Principal Michael Snedden welcomes students to York Suburban Middle School as they return for the first time in six months following the COVID-19 shutdown, Wednesday, August 19, 2020. Sixth and ninth grade students started a day earlier than the rest of the district due to moving up to bigger schools.
John A. Pavoncello photo

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance for K-12 schools, with several recommendations that differ from what York County school districts are planning for the start of the school year. 

The guidelines are a relaxed version of  recommendations given for the previous school year, when COVID-19 transmission was at a higher level. Instead of universal masking, the CDC recommends that only unvaccinated individuals wear masks indoors, and it does not recommend masking when outdoors. The CDC maintains its requirement for universal masking on public transportation, including school buses, regardless of the school's masking policy. 

School districts across the state are currently working on their health and safety plans for the 2021-2022 school year, which must be submitted by July 30 in order to be eligible for COVID-19 relief funds. Pennsylvania's Departments of Health and Education do not plan to release separate guidance, and officials advise schools to refer to the CDC recommendations for guidance, according to a PDE report. 

Against this guidance, several local school districts plan to keep masks optional for all students and staff, according to their health and safety plans. Dozens of parents have advocated against mask mandates and other COVID-19 safety regulations at school board meetings over the past month. 

More:At board meetings around York County, parents railed against mask, vaccine mandates for next school year. No district was proposing any

More:Parents pressure West Shore, Eastern York school boards against mask mandates when no mandates are planned

In the classroom, the CDC recommends keeping at least 3 feet of distance between students, differing from last year's guidance of 6-foot distancing. The CDC also continued its recommendation for contact tracing and confirmed that fully vaccinated students do not have to wear masks when playing sports or participating in other extracurricular activities. 

COVID-19 vaccines are not approved for children under 12 yet.

The CDC did not issue any requirements regarding COVID-19 vaccines, but the guidance encouraged schools to document the vaccination status for students and staff in order to maintain effective safety protocols. No school districts in York County currently require COVID-19 vaccines for students or employees, and many of them have not recorded how many people in their district have been vaccinated.