The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance Friday with an unmistakable message: Kids should be back in school in person this fall and schools should be very cautious about removing the measures meant to protect them.
But as the Biden administration struggles to boost low vaccination rates in Southern states amid a troublesome level of Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy, decisions about safety precautions in schools will be made, as always, at the local level. Those decisions have already become a hot political topic as fall approaches, with Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, for example, banning mask mandates in public schools earlier this year, while California health officials announced Friday that they would continue to require students and teachers to wear face coverings indoors even though the CDC’s new guidance said vaccinated teachers and students don’t need to wear masks inside school buildings.
The CDC’s new guidance comes when many parents are still anxious about the risks of Covid-19 variants, as well as the many unknowns about what the long-term effects of Covid infections could be in children. As school districts brace for the uncertainty of another semester with many unvaccinated children, Pfizer sent a jolt of alarm through the country by announcing Thursday that it is seeing waning immunity from its coronavirus vaccine and it will seek emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration in August for a booster dose. In an unusual rebuke, the FDA and the CDC released a joint statement hours after the Pfizer missive saying boosters were not needed yet, and Biden administration officials sought to amplify that message Friday.