Midstate doctor gives advice on contradictory guidance about students & masking

Coronavirus in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Top U.S. health organizations have put out conflicting guidance about whether students and teachers should be wearing masks in schools.

On Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics said everyone should wear masks at schools, even if they’re vaccinated. That contradicts what the CDC said last week, which is that vaccinated people are safe to go maskless inside of schools.

Dr. Patrick Gavigan is a pediatric infectious disease physician with Penn State Health.

“If you’re a concerned parent, we recommend having your kid continue to wear a mask,” Gavigan said.

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Dr. Francis S. Collins, the Director of the National Institutes of Health says there’s a reason for the contradiction between the organizations.

“For CDC to try and come up with a recommendation that applies everywhere is just simply not possible,” Collins said. “When they made their recommendation about being safe to take masks off if you’re fully vaccinated including indoors, that was before the Delta variant began to appear and before we realized how much of a hesitancy problem was going to exist in some parts of the country.”

Dr. Gavigan says if your student is vaccinated they are well protected, even without a mask.

However, a majority of students won’t be vaccinated by fall, because only kids 12 and up are eligible. It will also be hard to keep count of which students are.

“School districts, schools, teachers aren’t really going to have the resources to kind of track which students are and aren’t vaccinated,” Gavigan said.

For those too young to be vaccinated, masks are a good alternative.

“We know from a lot of the data last year these sort of masks and safety protocols that schools were using were pretty effective,” Gavigan said.

Even though this may seem like a step backwards, Dr. Gavigan points out that COVID is still here and still dangerous.

“The pandemic really isn’t over. We’ve certainly come a long way from where we were a year, a year and a half ago. We’re not where we ultimately need to be,” Gavigan said.

The PA Dept. of Education told ABC27 News in a statement, “The Pennsylvania departments of Health and Education recommend schools follow CDC guidance. In Pennsylvania, school administrators may adopt stricter COVID prevention strategies.”

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