Status of Masks in Schools for the Fall Semester
By: Clare Gillis
With a new school year looming on the horizon after all of the uncertainty that came with the 2020/21 schooling, many are beginning to ask themselves: will masks be worn in school next year? The covid test positivity rate is currently hovering around a steady 0.55% in Connecticut. With kids already beginning to ditch the mask whenever possible little is known about the current plan regarding masks during the fall semester. Kids ages 12 and above now qualify to receive the Pfizer vaccine, granting them over 95% immunity and protecting them from severe symptoms or hospitalization. The CDC's announcement that fully vaccinated individuals are no longer required to wear masks at the end of April was met with uncertainty. Many believed it was too extreme of a decision, but regardless in the following months, as more and more citizens received their vaccine, masks came off, and life slowly began to move back to normal. However, when making this decision, many school districts will have to look at CDC guidelines and the intense vaccine hesitation seen throughout the United States.
While Connecticut is currently ranked third among states with the highest percentage of adults vaccinated, there are still many people hesitant to get the vaccine. Despite the strong start compared to other states, many healthcare professionals within Connecticut called for more incentive regarding the vaccine rollout. Despite not taking as extreme of a route as other states, such as Maryland who conducted a vaccine lottery, Connecticut took multiple steps to make the vaccine more accessible for anyone hoping to get the shot. Private companies also offer various lotteries and rewards, with the push to return to normal life being stronger than ever entering the summer. School districts will have to contemplate whether or not this vaccine hesitancy could lead to an unsafe student environment come fall and evaluate just how many students actually received the vaccine.
Regarding the actual logistics of masks during the upcoming school year, the CDC is set to release new guidelines regarding their thoughts on the decision many school districts will have. While some states, such as Arizona, have already removed the majority of masking requirements, most New England states have chosen to keep masks mandatory until at least the end of the school year. Some states never even had a mask requirement in schools, to begin with, so the disconnect among states could be a significant problem facing America soon. Lamont has claimed he plans on keeping masks a necessity in schools, however with the consistent changes regarding guidelines, that is subject to change.
While vaccines ensure safety among students, with many elementary and middle school students not eligible for the vaccine and with guidelines changing, it is unclear whether Lamont or individual schools will be making a decision. Still, regardless it is important that everyone (who can) gets vaccinated as soon as possible and follow CDC guidelines until a clear decision is made.