New recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics adds to the school mask debate

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 6:30 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - New recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics are adding new fuel to the debate on masking in schools. Local health officials and school leaders fear the controversy over masks could get in the way of doing what’s best for students.

In updated guidance for opening schools in the fall, the American Academy of Pediatrics is strongly recommending universal mask wearing for students and staff, regardless of vaccination status. Meanwhile, the CDC is only recommending masks for students and staff who are unvaccinated.

”Which of those is the safest for the current situation within Pima County? Obviously the more people who are vaccinated, the less likely they are to require or recommend masks,” Pima County Health Director, Dr. Theresa Cullen says.

According to ADHS, Pima county is 47% vaccinated. But CDC data puts that number the county is at 52%.

This is why Dr. Cullen says there is no plan to change the department’s recommendation for mask wearing among the unvaccinated.

“I think what people need to remember is the science is clear. If you are unvaccinated, masking decreases your risk of getting COVID, decreases your risk of transmission to others. So, given that science, we need to just go back to that and say what is best to protect students,” Dr. Cullen says.

But the decision to mask up will ultimately fall on individuals, because Governor Doug Ducey has banned schools from requiring masks and COVID-19 vaccinations.

Superintendent of Pima County Schools, Dustin Williams, believes the growing mask debate is only taking the focus away from what’s really important.

“The politics in COVID-19 have really gone too far, we really need to be focusing solely on our kids, the safety of our kids, and most importantly the learning and getting them back together. And the only way to do that is to be united and work together with each other,” Superintendent Williams says.

Williams is working very closely with teachers and parents as schools prepare to open for the fall semester. He says many parents are wanting to send their kids back to school with masks.

“I think the recommendations for wearing masks in any situation is a good idea. I mean, we have COVID-19 cases across the nation. They’re in Arizona. They’re in Pima County. And any mitigation strategy that we can use to keep our kids safe is super important,” he adds.

Williams says even though masks are not mandated, other mitigation strategies will be in place like disinfecting surfaces and distancing whenever possible.

The AAP is also urging parents to make sure their children is up to date on all other vaccinations even if they cannot yet get the COVID-19 vaccine.

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