Conflicting advice: How will Vermont decide whether schoolchildren should wear masks?

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 5:08 PM EDT
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - School is about one month away and medical professionals are still discussing mask recommendations. One group says fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask unless required. But another says in a school setting, everyone over age 2 must wear one.

So how is Vermont approaching this decision? The state is taking all of the recommendations into account and has not made a decision yet.

“As long as we’re all vaccinated, I don’t believe so,” said Kenneth Stone of Rutland.

The father of three says if a person is vaccinated, they should not have to wear a mask.

“As far as my children’s safety, if you’re not vaccinated, you should be wearing a mask,” Stone said.

Stone’s opinion is in keeping with guidance from the CDC which says “fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks anywhere, but unvaccinated people should wear masks in schools.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a different opinion, recommending “that everyone older than age 2 wear masks, regardless of vaccination status” in school settings.

Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine does not want people to think either the CDC or AAP is providing better information than the other.

“They’re all basing their recommendations on science and trying to be, in the case of AAP, as conservative as possible,” Levine said.

He says national recommendations are for everyone, including states with low vaccination rates.

Vermont successfully reopened schools last year and has a high vaccination rate.

Later this week, state and medical officials are meeting to discuss a decision on masks in Vermont schools by assessing scientific findings, vaccination rates among those eligible and transmission rates.

“What we’re planning for in Vermont is a safe return to school as opposed to suddenly having to reopen school and reinvent that entire playbook again,” Levine said.

Sandra Galarneau of Rutland agrees kids need to be back in school. She thinks it should be a required vaccination for kids who are eligible. Then anyone fully vaccinated would not have to mask up.

“I think it’s because a lot of parents don’t want their child to be vaccinated because there are a lot of parents out there that don’t want to be vaccinated themselves,” Galarneau said.

I reached out to the union for Vermont teachers Tuesday. It says after the state’s decision is released, it will give us their feedback.

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