CDC Addresses COVID-19 Mask Mandates in Schools

The CDC Director, Dr. Mandy Cohen, addressed the recent reports of certain U.S. schools implementing mask mandates in the past few weeks during an interview with CNN on September 22. She was questioned about the effectiveness of school mask mandates as a policy.

“We want folks to be reacting to what they’re seeing on the ground in their community and making sure that they’re protecting themselves,” she responded. “Masking is one of those solutions that folks could choose to use to protect themselves from this virus.”

Although studies referenced by the CDC indicate that masks and face coverings offer some level of protection against COVID-19, contrasting research findings suggest otherwise. Some studies even argue that compulsory mask-wearing can have detrimental effects in specific situations.

“Do you think that this is a good recommendation, that schools should be masking now? As I said, there are several schools, I think Maryland one of them, where they’re saying, okay, now you have to mask again,” the CNN host asked Dr. Cohen.

The CDC director said, “We want folks to know that there are tools that they can use. But there are more things than masks.”

In recent weeks, at least two public schools, one in Maryland and another in Alabama, have introduced mask mandates in response to specific circumstances. Officials pointed to a recent increase in COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses as the reason.

The Maryland school implemented this rule several weeks ago, specifically targeting a single class after students reported COVID-19 cases. This move faced opposition from some Republican lawmakers who characterized it as a form of child abuse.

In Alabama, Kinterbish Junior High School posted in August that, due to a “slow rise” in COVID cases, students, employees, and visitors were asked to wear facial masks. The duration of this advisory remains unclear.

Additionally, two colleges implemented mask requirements in August. Dillard University in Louisiana mandated masks for students, visitors, and staff for a two-week period at the end of August. Meanwhile, Morris Brown College in Atlanta also imposed a two-week mask mandate in August.

Earlier this month, when the CDC recommended the administration of new vaccine booster shots, Dr. Cohen was questioned about the possibility of widespread returns of COVID-19 vaccine mandates, mask requirements, or stay-at-home orders.

“What I see is I don’t see any need for mandates or those kinds of things right now. But we have to keep watching this virus, seeing how it changes, and if we need to make other recommendations, we will,” she said.

Even though officials have referenced a rise in COVID-19 cases in certain regions, CDC data indicates that the current increase in reported cases is significantly lower than historical averages, particularly when compared to previous waves of the virus.