Rochester area reacts to top pediatrician group’s call for masks to stay in schools

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — It might be summer break, but before you know it, the kids will be heading back to school. There’s a good chance, regardless of vaccination status, all students will need to wear a mask.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) made the recommendation Monday, saying it’s worried about new coronavirus variants. The AAP says universal masking is still necessary because a good chunk of the student population is not vaccinated.

"I am all for the science and the recommendations of the pediatricians,” said Newark Central School District parent Kellijo Kaufman.

The AAP says it’s is in full support of in-person learning but recommends everyone two years old and older wear a mask. The organization says it will be difficult for schools to be able to track the vaccination status of students, teachers, and staff.

"I’m completely ok with it, I’m not pro mask or anti-mask," Kaufman said.

Local pediatric teams say the last thing they want is a new variant to emerge if we don’t mask just a little longer.

"Any time a disease is spread from one person to another we risk the opportunity of another variant and we don’t know what the next variant will do, will it be the one that prevents our vaccine from working? Will it be the one that causes children to have severe disease? We just don’t know,” said Dr. Elizabeth Murray, who works with URMC.

This latest recommendation runs contrary to recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance that OKed the removal of masks in schools for anyone vaccinated. New York school districts are still waiting for direction from the state health department.

"This is a tricky situation with the recommendations coming down from the CDC about mask-wearing in schools for those that are vaccinated and we know that there are kids that won’t have a vaccination before school starts and we know the risk of transmission exists,” Murray added.

Murray says come late fall, they expect to have new data on vaccines for kids around the age of five.

The CDC says it believes a return to in-person learning in the fall is a priority and those who have been vaccinated do not need to wear masks indoors.

It suggests people in schools keep three feet of social distance, but also added to its guidance on July 9 that students should not be excluded from in-person learning in order to keep a minimum distance of three feet.

The CDC also said schools may need to use more prevention strategies if local transmission rates are high.