Everyone older than age 2 should wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, when schools reopen in the fall, according to updated guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics released Monday.
The leading national pediatrician group said it recommends universal masking because so much of the student population isn't yet eligible for vaccination. It's not clear how quickly that will change, or how likely parents will be to get their younger children dosed when the federal government approves shots for kids under 12.
Research consistently shows opening schools in person doesn't generally increase community COVID transmission when masks and other protocol are employed, AAP says, and the emergence of more contagious variants, some of which are linked to more severe outcomes, poses a particular threat to people who aren't vaccinated.
“We need to prioritize getting children back into schools alongside their friends and their teachers -- and we all play a role in making sure it happens safely,” Sonja O’Leary, chair of the AAP Council on School Health, said in a statement. “The pandemic has taken a heartbreaking toll on children, and it’s not just their education that has suffered but their mental, emotional and physical health. Combining layers of protection that include vaccinations, masking and clean hands hygiene will make in-person learning safe and possible for everyone.”