As debates over masks in schools reach a fever pitch — with Texas, Iowa and Utah late last week banning face covering mandates outright — over half of all U.S. students now attend school in states that do not require universal masking in the classroom.
Four states have switched to a vaccine-contingent policy in which individuals can go maskless only if they have been immunized, 17 states have lifted mask mandates but allow local districts to set their own policies and six states have explicitly banned masking requirements.
Meanwhile 23 states, accounting for 49 percent of American learners, have maintained their requirement that all students and staff wear face coverings in school.
The dramatic shift away from universal masking in school reflects broader changes across the country as neighbors, retail outlets, community organizations and many others struggle to navigate updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In mid-May, the federal agency revised its recommendations, stipulating that vaccinated individuals could forgo masks in most indoor settings.
While the race is on to inoculate young people, the vast majority have yet to receive shots. While 12- to 15-year-olds make up 5 percent of the total population, they make up only 0.9 percent of individuals with at least one vaccine dose. Sixteen and 17-year-olds, who have had access to vaccines for a longer period of time, represent 2.5 percent of the total population, but only 1.6 percent of immunized individuals. Many parents across the country remain reluctant to get their children — especially younger ones — vaccinated, with only 30 percent reporting that they would allow their children to get shots right away.
That means schools, at least for the time being, continue to serve large percentages of students lacking immunity to COVID-19.
Read the full article about the changing mask mandates in schools by Asher Lehrer-Small at The 74.
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