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CDC removes guidance for phasing out masks in schools, say it’s ‘always being revised’

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention altered the guidance for phasing out masks in schools by removing a portion from its website on when to lift the basic safety precaution, according to a report.

Fox News reported Thursday on the updated CDC guidance from Aug. 5 calling for universal indoor masking for students, teachers, staff and visitors to K-12 schools regardless of their vaccination status.

The agency’s previous guidance, however, suggested transitioning out of COVID-19 mitigation efforts, like masks for students, would happen as overall case numbers decreased.

“The guidance is intended to help administrators and local health officials select appropriate, layered prevention strategies and understand how to safely transition learning environments out of COVID-19 pandemic precautions as community transmission of COVID-19 reaches low levels or stops,” the earlier guidance read.

Teacher Emma Rossi works with her first grade students at the Sokolowski School, where students and teachers are required to wear masks because of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Chelsea, Massachusetts, U.S., September 15, 2021.
Emma Rossi works with her first-grade students at the Sokolowski School, where students and teachers are required to wear masks because of the COVID-19 pandemic, in Chelsea, Mass. on Sept. 15, 2021.
REUTERS/Brian Snyder

The previous language also included metrics to help schools determine which mitigation strategies to use, but those figures were removed as well, Fox News reported.

“For example, with a low teacher, staff or student vaccination rate, and without a screening testing program, schools might decide that they need to continue to maximize physical distancing or implement screening testing in addition to mask wearing,” the guidance now reads.

An earlier version from Aug. 4 also recommended that schools keep masking up and practicing social distancing, but suggested to monitor any change closely if those efforts are scaled back. That language was removed altogether, Fox News reported.

The CDC’s guidance page, which doesn’t supersede any federal, state or local laws, notes that an “update” was made to the page given new evidence on the surging Delta variant.

Children and parents wearing protective face masks wait for a coronavirus (COVID-19) rapid antigen test.
The CDC removed guidance for phasing out masks in schools from its website.
REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

“CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status,” the website reads. “Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place.”

A CDC spokeswoman told Fox News the agency’s guidance is “always being revised based on the current epidemiology” while noting that higher caseloads and low vaccination rates in some areas of the country prompted the changes.

Critics of the altered guidance, meanwhile, accused the CDC of dashing any hopes of a return to normalcy in classrooms.

“We believe that our state, as well as teachers unions, probably had an influence over this change,” Jonathan Zachreson of Reopen California Schools told Fox News. “It’s basically mask indefinitely in schools forever, and there is no off-ramp. So it’s really disappointing to see that.”

Zachreson accused the CDC of quietly shifting its stance in a key way.

“So other mitigations, removing masking – even if COVID prevalence goes down to zero or vaccination rates increase – the CDC guidelines do not recommend removing these protocols for schools like they previously did,” Zachreson told Fox News. “I know that goes against what many infectious disease experts are telling us, especially here in California.”

Previous reporting by The Post showed that the American Federation of Teachers lobbied the CDC and even suggested language for the agency’s school-reopening guidance in February.

In at least two instances, language “suggestions” offered up by the powerful teacher’s union were adopted nearly verbatim into the CDC’s final version, The Post reported in May.

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