Coronavirus: CDC recommends masks be worn in schools regardless of vaccination status

WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday recommended that vaccinated people wear masks indoors in K-12 schools amid a surge in COVID-19 cases nationwide, weeks before students are set to return to schools.

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“CDC recommends that everyone in K-12 schools wear a mask indoors, including teachers, staff, students and visitors, regardless of vaccination status,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a news briefing Tuesday. “Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with proper prevention strategies in place.”

Earlier this month, health officials released guidelines which said that students who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 would not have to wear face masks when school starts in the fall unless they were riding a school bus.

>> Related: CDC: Vaccinated teachers, students don’t need masks in classrooms

In the recommendations, the CDC said unvaccinated students and staff members should continue to wear masks indoors.

The new guidance comes as health officials nationwide grapple with a spike in reported COVID-19 cases driven by the highly-transmissible delta variant. The CDC also updated its guidance Tuesday to recommend that vaccinated people wear masks indoors “in areas with substantial or high transmission” of COVID-19, Walensky said.

>> Related: Coronavirus: CDC recommends masks indoors for some vaccinated people

Last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that all children age 2 and older wear masks in school, regardless of their vaccination statuses.

“Combining layers of protection that include vaccinations, masking and clean hands hygiene will make in-person learning safe and possible for everyone,” Sonja O’Leary, chair of the AAP Council on School Health, said in a statement released July 19.

>> Related: American Academy of Pediatrics: Students should wear masks in school, no matter vaccination status

About 34.5 million COVID-19 cases have been reported across the U.S., resulting in more than 611,000 deaths, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University. Globally, 194.9 million COVID-19 cases have been reported, resulting in over 4.1 million deaths.