Anthony Fauci indicated the top US public health agency was reviewing its guidelines for children wearing masks in the classroom following a recommendation from an association of American paediatricians for universal mask wearing, regardless of vaccination status.
Fauci, who is President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, sought to clear up some of the growing confusion as education officials in several cities and states indicate that masks will, or may, be required in schools because they are unable to meet health guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that would exempt fully vaccinated individuals from wearing face coverings.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, which represents about 67,000 paediatricians in the US, said on Monday that anyone over the age of two should wear a face covering in school, citing a lack of vaccination status monitoring systems in many schools and low vaccination coverage in some local communities.
Schools “should do what is being asked for locally,” Fauci said during a Tuesday interview on CBS This Morning, adding that the Academy’s recommendation represented an “extra step of caution” from the CDC’s guidance.
“The CDC is carefully looking at that and hopefully we’ll have some . . . concordance” between the two bodies, he said.
The CDC earlier this month said vaccinated students and teachers do not need to wear masks in schools if certain public health guidelines, namely keeping 3ft of distance between desks in class, could be met.
Officials from several counties, cities and states have already indicated they cannot, or may not, be able to achieve the CDC’s distancing recommendation, meaning children and staff would need to wear masks on campus even if they are vaccinated.
Fauci also warned it was possible that vaccinations for Covid-19 may in the future be required of students attending school, as they are for measles or mumps, if the country is not able to successfully control the coronavirus epidemic.
“I would not be surprised that in the future this would be something that would be seriously considered depending upon how we handle the outbreak,” he said during the CBS interview.
“If we crush this” and new infections and transmission remain at low levels for an extended period, “then I don’t think you’d require it,” Fauci said. However, if outbreaks continue to spring up and spread, “it very well might be required” in schools.