The CDC has updated its mask guidelines for schools. Some states will listen, some won't.

·3 min read

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidance Friday saying vaccinated teachers and students no longer must wear masks inside school buildings to protect against the transmission of COVID-19.

The guidance, issued amid falling infection rates and hospitalizations, recommends unvaccinated individuals, including children, should still wear masks and maintain 3 feet of social distancing.

Schools and state officials have been waiting weeks for updated CDC guidance, rolling out a patchwork of tentative and contradictory rules for their own teachers and students. The CDC guidelines are more lenient than what some localities have established, yet fly in the face of anti-mask legislation passed in some conservative states.

Some local officials are likely to change their standards again in response to the CDC's ruling. And others will stand firm against mask requirements – worrying parents concerned about their children's risk of contracting COVID-19.

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Some states have already dropped their mask mandates for schools, such as in Rhode Island. Gov. Dan McKee announced on June 30 that vaccinated students and teachers wouldn't be required to wear masks.

Meanwhile, California was quick to stand up against the CDC's new guidance, announcing that masks will be worn when classrooms open this fall. The decision, in part, is to "ensure that all kids are treated the same,” whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, the state's Department of Public Health said in a statement.

Demonstrators protest mask requirements on March 9 outside Flathead High School in Kalispell, Montana.
Demonstrators protest mask requirements on March 9 outside Flathead High School in Kalispell, Montana.

Other states, such as Oregon and New Jersey, aren't issuing mask requirements but will allow individual school districts to determine whether they want students to wear masks.

New York, which hasn’t said yet whether it will require masks in schools this fall, is allowing school districts to determine mask usage at summer school programs, according to a memo from the New York Department of Health released Thursday.

Some school districts have already said they will require masks in the fall. The Westbrook Public School District in Connecticut said masks would be required for students and staff during a Board of Education meeting on June 8.

Districts such as Westbrook may reevaluate in light of the new guidance. But states that have banned mask mandates of any kind are unlikely to conform to the new CDC recommendation.

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In Iowa, for example, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill May 20 that said school districts cannot require students or staff to wear masks. Two days prior, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order banning mask mandates by all government entities, including school districts. Legislators in Arizona passed a state budget banning mask mandates at public schools and universities.

Still, some said the CDC guidelines were too lenient.

“At this point in time I believe everyone interacting with children at schools should be wearing masks regardless of vaccination status,” Dr. Brandon Brown, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Riverside, told USA TODAY in an email.

Some parents expressed anger or fear at the guidance, many questioning the safety of school for children under 12, a group that isn't eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

"My kid is under 12, so we're just going to put her at risk then?" tweeted @StLuGal. "CDC is pissing me off."

"We live in Texas where masks are optional, incl in schools," tweeted @StilettoJen. "I'm so nervous about the variants and my unvaccinated 9 year old. ... My anxiety is through the roof."

Contributing: Erin Richards, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Masks in schools and COVID: How will states react to new CDC guidance?