Why are some schools in Jackson County suddenly dropping mask mandates, even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation’s authority on all things COVID-19, recommends that schoolchildren and teachers stay masked at least through the end of the school year?
The agency announced last week that fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to wear masks or social distance indoors or outdoors. But vaccinations aren’t even available yet for children younger than 12, who can become quite ill with the virus.
Most districts in the Kansas City area are not letting their masks down just yet.
But school districts such as Blue Springs, Lee’s Summit and Fort Osage say they are following Jackson County’s lead. They said they have followed the advice of county health officials since the pandemic began. So what does the county say?
Even though local municipalities can set their own rules and restrictions for managing the pandemic, the Jackson County Health Department says its order is in line with what the CDC recommends: No masks are required for fully vaccinated folks. That means everybody else, including unvaccinated children, should still be masking up. But no one is checking vaccine cards at the door.
In Jackson County, only 31% of residents are fully vaccinated.
“We are asking people to be honest with themselves,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The honor system? What about the people, some of them parents, who are a hard no on vaccinations and only reluctantly wore a mask in the first place?
Masks are still required in county buildings, for everybody.
“We cannot forget that this virus is still present and poses a risk to our residents, especially those who are not fully vaccinated. People are still contracting COVID-19 and dying from it,” County Executive Frank White said in a statement Friday.
“We are trying to keep our staff and our visitors safe,” said Marshanna Smith, county spokeswoman. “We have not made any decisions that our county health department does not agree with.”
If a school district is following the county’s lead, then maybe it should be requiring that masks be worn inside its buildings too.
The Fort Osage District, which had one COVID-19 case last week, said only a few students and staff members are still wearing masks at this point.
Schools were quick to shut down and go to online-only learning in the middle of March last year. They were slow to return to classrooms, despite screams from some frustrated parents. Schools spent heaps of money to boost cleaning and install desk shields to keep students, staff and their families safe from COVID-19.
Why they’d then undermine all of those efforts and sacrifices by dropping mask mandates now, contrary to CDC guidance, doesn’t make sense.