The CDC is again asking for everyone in the classroom to mask up, even already vaccinated students and teachers.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has come under some criticism for its inconsistent position on masks through the length of the pandemic. At the beginning of July, the agency’s official stance was that it was safe for the vaccinated to go unmasked in school, even though the majority of minors aren’t vaccinated yet. But the rapid rise of the more infectious and possibly more serious delta variant has changed the landscape of the pandemic once again.

“CDC recommends that everyone in K to 12 schools wear a mask indoors, including teachers, staff, students and visitors, regardless of vaccination status,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky in a press call on July 27, 2021. In the call, she also recommended that vaccinated people in any area currently seeing notable COVID-19 rates wear their masks indoors in any public space.

“When we released our school guidance on July 9, we had less delta variant in this country, we had fewer cases in this country,” Walensky said. “Importantly we were really hopeful we would have more people vaccinated, especially in the demographic between 12 to 17 years old.”

The political tension around masks for everyone has resulted in eight states having passed laws that forbid schools from requiring masks to protect students and staff alike. It remains to be seen if the new CDC guidance will be used to challenge those laws. Teachers’ unions in those states have gone on strike to protest those laws, which put them directly at risk from their students.

It’s important to remember that no vaccines have yet been approved for children under 12, which means that nearly all elementary school children will remain unvaccinated for the foreseeable future. Children are not often casualties of the novel coronavirus, but science points to them as a major vector of infection spreading.

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