States around the nation, including Democratic ones such as New York and California, are lifting indoor mask mandates. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention refuses to budge. It continues to recommend indoor masking in communities with substantial or high transmission — essentially the entire country — a stance that is particularly exasperating and harmful in regards to schools. The agency recommends masking all students ages 2 and older.
In congressional testimony, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky insisted that school mask mandates continue. The following day, at a White House briefing, Walensky, after acknowledging rapidly falling COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths, said the agency would reconsider its guidelines, but gave no indication any update would apply to schools.
Two days later, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief White House medical adviser, echoed his overcautious colleague, telling CNN that ending school masking would be “risky.”
Yet, whatever rationales were previously advanced to justify school mask mandates have long since disappeared and the benefit of masking children is outweighed by the cost…
There is little evidence that masking students protects others. A study in Sweden which kept schools open without mask mandates found that teachers had no increased risk of severe COVID-19 infection as compared to other occupations.
Other studies primarily done before vaccine approval confirm that students are not causing transmission in schools. Staff-to-staff transmission is more common than transmission from students. The correlation between school outbreaks and COVID incidence in the community suggests that adults infected in the community pose a far greater risk to students and staff than students do…
Earlier in the pandemic, masks may have facilitated a return to in-person learning. But now there is widespread vaccine immunity and natural immunity after recovery, particularly with the highly transmissible Omicron variant. New monoclonal antibodies and oral antivirals significantly reduce the risk of severe COVID illness. And case numbers are rapidly falling. These developments, combined with the dubious evidence supporting school mask mandates, mean that the time has come for the CDC to change its guidelines.