STORY BY TOMOKI CHIEN
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Friday said that fully vaccinated students and staff no longer need to wear masks, as part of an update to its guidance for K–12 schools to reflect the impact of now widely available vaccines.
The CDC’s recommendations should guide — if not mirror — the policy set by the California Department of Public Health, which Santa Clara County will likely default to.
Friday’s guidance also says that in general, people don’t need to wear masks outdoors regardless of vaccination status, with the exception of unvaccinated people in crowded settings in areas of high transmission.
Cases where the CDC suggests schools consider implementing universal mask usage include having high COVID-19 transmission within the school or community; lacking a system to monitor vaccine status of students and staff; having difficulty enforcing mask policies that are not universal; and receiving community feedback that teachers and students would not participate in in-person learning without universal mask usage.
Masks continue to be required on school buses, regardless of vaccination status.
On the social distancing front, the CDC’s guidance recommends 3-foot distancing between all students, but that recommendation appears to be more flexible than the masking policy; if 3-foot distancing would prevent schools from fully reopening, the requirement appears to be no-longer necessary.
“Because of the importance of in-person learning, schools where not everyone is fully vaccinated should implement physical distancing to the extent possible within their structures, but should not exclude students from in-person learning to keep a minimum distance requirement,” the guidance reads.
Ultimately, the guidance acknowledges that vaccines are the most effective mitigation measure, and encourages schools to promote vaccination among eligible students and staff.
Local school districts are expected to set their COVID-19 safety policy for the fall once the state releases its guidance.