Story at a glance
- Six states are requiring K-12 students to wear face coverings regardless of vaccination status this fall as schools prepare to reopen.
- The announcement comes as the delta variant leads to increased cases in several states, especially those with low vaccination rates.
- Vaccination rates remain particularly low among younger Americans and those under 12 are not yet eligible for a vaccine.
This year’s back to school list will almost certainly include face masks for many students, especially those in six states that have announced requirements for returning to the classroom this fall.
As the delta variant threatens to backslide efforts to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Mexico, New York, Virginia and Washington have announced that K-12 students will be required to wear face coverings in school regardless of their vaccination status. Other states are backing off, however, with California reversing a previous announcement requiring masks in classrooms and the state of Tennessee stopping outreach to youth about all vaccinations entirely.
Currently, only children 12 and older are eligible for coronavirus vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration and vaccination rates remain low among the youth population. Children in the U.S. could begin to receive vaccinations by late 2021 into 2022, according to White House chief medical officer Anthony Fauci, but with the school year approaching, many states are already preparing to return to school. Last year, many states were forced to close schools after opening amid the ongoing pandemic as case rates began spiking.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends masks and social distancing in schools as the delta variant overtakes other strains of the coronavirus. The World Health organization warns that vaccinated people still need masks to protect against this more contagious strain, which has been linked to increased hospitalizations.
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