The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has responded to recent reports of some U.S. schools issuing mask mandates in recent weeks.
During an interview with CNN on Sept. 22, CDC Director Dr. Mandy Cohen was asked about whether school mask mandates are a “good policy.”
“We want folks to be reacting to what they’re seeing on the ground in their community and making sure that they’re protecting themselves,” she responded. “Masking is one of those solutions that folks could choose to use to protect themselves from this virus.”
While studies cited by the CDC state that masks and face coverings provide some protection from COVID-19, a number of studies state otherwise, and some even conclude that mandatory mask-wearing can be harmful under certain circumstances.
The CDC director said, “We want folks to know that there are tools that they can use. But there are more things than masks.”
In recent weeks, at least two public schools—one in Maryland and the other in Alabama—have initiated mask-wearing under certain circumstances. Officials cited a recent uptick in COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.
The Maryland school implemented the rule several weeks ago, targeting a single class after COVID-19 cases were reported among students. The move drew pushback from some Republican lawmakers, who suggested that it was a form of child abuse.
In Alabama, Kinterbish Junior High School posted in August that due to the “slow raise (sic) of COVID cases,” students, employees, and visitors “[were] asked to wear facial masks.” It’s unclear how long the advisory will remain in place.
Two colleges initiated a mask requirement in August. Dillard University in Louisiana in late August implemented its mandate for students, visitors, and staff for a two-week period, while Morris Brown College in Atlanta also issued a two-week mask mandate in August.
Earlier in the month, as the CDC recommended the new vaccine booster shots, Dr. Cohen was asked about whether COVID-19 vaccine, mask, or stay-at-home mandates would return en masse.
While officials have cited an increase in COVID-19 in some areas, data from the CDC suggest that the current rise in reported cases is far lower than the historical average—especially in periods during previous surges of the virus.
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