On Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics said they’re now recommending everyone in school 2-years-old and above should be wearing a mask regardless of vaccination status.
But, that recommendation isn’t enforceable in Arizona schools because Governor Doug Ducey signed a bill into law that says school districts cannot enforce mask mandates. Arizona school districts are also prohibited from requiring students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to participate in in-person learning.
American Academy of Pediatrics Guidance
Stating in the release:
“AAP recommends universal masking because a significant portion of the student population is not yet eligible for vaccines, and masking is proven to reduce transmission of the virus and to protect those who are not vaccinated.”
The guidance goes above the CDC’s current guidance for schools, which states anyone not fully vaccinated should wear a mask on campus.
“I don’t necessarily disagree with that, I know the issue is complex,” Kyle Freese, Ph.D., MPH, the chief epidemiologist for STChealth said.
Other options besides masking
Freese said guidance like this often is intended to provide the ‘most cautious approach’ and reiterated that masks are proven to work, but they are not exactly easy to get younger students to wear consistently.
Freese said that’s where other options can help schools manage the virus in the classroom.
“A lot of times, you can do more rigorous testing in schools on a daily basis depending on where you’re at in terms of caseload in the community so that masking isn’t as much of a concern,” Freese said.
However, Freese recognizes while it is more expensive, it is an option that could be explored through districts working together with public health, the state and other stakeholders.
State Superintendent responds
Arizona is seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases. Freese said that the rise won’t be stopped without things like more vaccinations or something else to slow down transmission.
“That rise doesn’t stop until some intervention,” Freese said.
In a statement, State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman responded to AAP’s recommendations:
“Arizona’s kids have been through enough, carrying some of the most significant burdens of this pandemic. We owe it to our students to make this school year as normal as possible by following the advice of medical professionals and public health experts.
For 16+ months, we’ve relied on proven mitigation strategies like masking, quarantining, and testing to combat COVID-19. Unfortunately, state leaders like Governor Doug Ducey have chosen to put our unvaccinated population, including most students, at risk for a political position that has nothing to do with science, health, or education.
Following guidance from the CDC and the Arizona Department of Health Services, the Arizona Department of Education urges all eligible individuals to get fully vaccinated as the school year starts. All public schools are encouraged to follow recommendations from public health officials and medical experts like the American Academy of Pediatrics to ensure safe, in-person learning all year long.”
12 News did contact Governor Doug Ducey’s Office for comment regarding the recommendations from AAP. However, we have not received a response.
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