CDC Director: Areas Need ‘Documented’ ‘Full Vaccination’ in Schools and Low Case Rates to Start Thinking about Loosening School Masks

On Wednesday’s broadcast of CNN’s “New Day,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky stated that if there are areas where “we have full vaccination in schools, we have full vaccination in teachers, all of those are documented, we have disease rates that are low,” then they can think about loosening up mask rules in schools.

Co-host John Berman asked, “If all kids in a classroom were vaccinated, would there be a need to wear masks?”

Walensky answered, “We have always said that our guidance has to be taken to the local level. And this is — I can imagine a situation where a school system might have all of their teachers documented and vaccinated, all of their children in a high school documented as vaccinated, and very little disease in the community. Right now, we don’t have a lot of situations that are like that, but I could imagine a situation like that, and boy do I hope we get there as schools start to open and we have more and more people vaccinated and disease comes down. And that might be a very reasonable approach. Right now, we have very few places in the country where that is true.”

Berman later asked, “Well, what’s the metric then for dropping the mask mandates — not mask mandates, the mask guidance in schools? At what point will you say, this is not something that we recommend?”

Walensky responded, “I think if we see more and more people who are vaccinated, our children are vaccinated, we have full vaccination in schools, we have full vaccination in teachers, all of those are documented, we have disease rates that are low, I think then we can start thinking about what — how we can loosen up and not seeing clusters and outbreaks in these school systems. The thing that’s most important to me through all of this is that our kids get back in school full-time in-person learning. And we’re not there yet. We’re far from there. And I want our children to be safe.”

Berman then asked, “But can we put a number on it? … And right now, you say, in communities with transmission less than 50 cases per 100,000, that’s the level where people in the community need to wear masks. But what about schools? In communities with case rates less than, what, 10 per 100,000, maybe that’s something where kids won’t have to wear masks in schools?”

Walensky answered, “I think if we had overwhelming rates of vaccination — mandated vaccination may be one way to get there — and we saw a lot more blue on that map. As you can see on that map, it’s more red and orange than anywhere blue. But if we saw a lot more blue on that map with high vaccination rates, and to be clear, these will go hand in hand. If we have more and more people vaccinated, we will win in this race and the virus will be less transmitting and we will be able to be able to lift some of these things.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett

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