Patient health and safety is of paramount concern during the COVID epidemic. Back-to-school guidelines should be evidence-based and flexible.
We have seen a recent surge in COVID-19 cases and Salt Lake County is categorized as High Risk for COVID transmission. In response to increased circulation of the highly transmissible delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, the CDC issued updated guidelines that strongly recommend that all individuals attending or visiting schools from kindergarten through 12th grade wear a mask regardless of their vaccination status.1
Masking in schools is critical for in-person learning environments to mitigate COVID infections. Recent data from the CDC shows a notable difference in COVID cases when comparing schools requiring masks and those without mask requirements. In a study released on May 21, 2021, COVID-19 incidence was 37% lower in schools that required teachers and staff members to use masks.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there were almost 72,000 new cases of Covid-19 among children from July 22-29, up from 39,000 the week prior and a sum that comprises 19% of all cases reported nationally over that period.2
Following the recommended guidelines and requiring masks, particularly for young children ineligible to receive the vaccine at this time, is critical to ensuring the safety of our children.
The new guidance is in response to data that suggest fully vaccinated individuals are able to transmit the delta variant to those who are immunocompromised or not vaccinated, including children under 12 years of age. The CDC says infections have been recorded “in only a small proportion of people who are fully vaccinated.”
“Utah Academy of Family Physicians fully supports the CDC’s updated guidance for COVID prevention, including the masking in K-6 public schools while in indoor settings,” UAFP President Chad Spain, MD, said. “We urge the Salt Lake County Council to weigh heavily the health and safety of our children and leave the mask mandate in place.”
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