Coronavirus and the Classroom: CDC changes course on masking guidelines ahead of return to school


AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is changing course on masking guidance for kids and teachers preparing for a return to school.

At the beginning of July, the CDC released guidelines saying vaccinated teachers and students did not need to wear masks inside school buildings.

That messaging changed Wednesday amid a new spike in COVID-19 cases nationwide.

The latest CDC guidance is calling for schools to require masks for students, teachers, and visitors in virus hot spots. Amarillo and much of the High Plains fall into that category.

Texas Tech Physicians Pediatrician Dr. Todd Bell, said in an interview last week that it will almost be inconceivable that we will not see an uptick in cases once kids return to the classroom, but it will also depend on where our curve is when classes start.

“It’s going to be a little bit of a question is whether school starts at the crest of the wave, or do we still have room further to go up? My guess is that we’re still going to be going up, and it’s gonna be hard to sort out how much of that increase in cases is specifically because of school starting. That I don’t know, it’d be difficult to sort out. But we will see cases increase, just like we see in cases increase when we stopped wearing masks,” said Dr. Bell.

So how does that affect what schools are doing here on the high plains? It really doesn’t.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order stopping governmental entities in Texas, including public school districts, from mandating mask-wearing. That order took effect in June.

“Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities. We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans’ liberty to choose whether or not they mask up,” said Abbott in a news release on May 18.

So what is the best way to keep your kids protected while in the classroom?

Dr. Bell said it starts with parents getting vaccinated themselves, helping to decrease the risk of their children getting exposed.

The second tip Dr. Bell offered is parents encouraging kids to wear masks in places where there will be a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

His third point of advice is to be considerate of other children and other people.

“If we have a child who’s sick, or if I’m an adult who’s sick, I need to be tested. I don’t need to just assume that it’s allergies, and go on to school and potentially cause a complication for somebody else,” said Dr. Bell.

Dr. Bell said the risk for children ending up in the ICU is low, but they have seen it, even in Amarillo.

For parents who are still hesitant about getting the vaccine for themselves or their eligible children, Dr. Bell offered this advice:

“The things that we don’t know about COVID scare me far, far more than the things that we don’t know about the vaccine. I think that you have to be able to balance risk, I think you have to be able to look at it logically. And I think that if you do that, then you’re going to come down on the side of realizing vaccinations what’s best for me and vaccination is what’s for my kids.”

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