CDC quietly removes guidance on how schools can phase out masks

The CDC made the change when it updated its guidance on universal indoor masking for those in school, both children and adults, regardless of their vaccination status on August 5.

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) removed guidelines Thursday on phasing out mask-wearing in schools in their latest school guidance update.

According to Fox News, the CDC made the change when it updated its guidance on universal indoor masking for those in school, both children and adults, regardless of their vaccination status on August 5.

"We believe that our state, as well as teachers' unions, probably influenced this change," Jonathan Zachreson, who leads the group Reopen California Schools, told Fox News. "It masks indefinitely in schools forever, and there are no off-ramps. So it's really disappointing to see that."

Teachers unions previously influenced changes to guidance issued by the CDC. Earlier this month, emails from prominent teachers' unions show that the CDC tightened its masking guidelines after they threatened the agency.

"CDC spokeswoman Jade Fulce told Fox News that guidance is 'always being revised based on the current epidemiology' and that increases in the delta variant and low vaccination coverage in some communities led to the changes," wrote Fox News.

Despite Fulce's statement, the previous guidelines were only suggestions, with mitigation efforts remaining in place in areas of high transmission.

According to Fox News, the CDC changed the language in its "Guidance for Covid-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools," removing phrases relating to helping school systems move from masking prevention strategies as cases declined.

"A note on the guidance states that it was updated to recommend indoor masking for everyone, but doesn't mention that any language was removed," wrote Fox News.

According to an archived version of the old guidance, "the guidance is intended to help administrators, and local health officials select appropriate, layered prevention strategies and understand how to safely transition learning environments out of COVID-19 pandemic precautions as community transmission of COVID-19 reaches low levels or stops."

The new guidance issued on August 5 nullified this statement.

The guidance included targets to decide what mitigation strategies could be implemented or removed. On August 5, the new guidance only states when new or continued mitigation strategies should be used.

The previous guidance also recommended that schools continue with masking and social distancing but added if they decide to remove any of the prevention strategies, they should do so one at a time to monitor the situation.

The new guidance also nullified this statement, only keeping the portion that states schools should communicate and plan changes to the appropriate parties.

The guidance also removed the necessity for school administrators to ensure their mask policy does not conflict with any laws or regulations.

"They removed all off-ramps," Zachreson told Fox News. "So other mitigations, removing masking – even if COVID prevalence goes down to zero or vaccination rates increase – the CDC guidelines do not recommend removing these protocols for schools like they previously did."

"I know that goes against what many infectious disease experts are telling us, especially here in California," Zachreson continued. "This also comes as there was a conflict with … our state's health department's recommendations on masking."


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