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On school masks (and everything else) “should” and “shall” are very different concepts

Tuesday, Jul 13, 2021

* DeWitt Daily News yesterday

The State of Illinois released guidance for school districts this fall in Illinois but a local State Representative is calling on the Governor to allow local districts to make their own decisions.

Sigh.

* WMAY yesterday

District 186 says it is still reviewing the latest guidance from the CDC to determine the safest way to welcome all students back to classrooms for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Superintendent Jennifer Gill says the guidelines give local districts some latitude to adapt the policies based upon local facility limitations and other factors. Masks may be required for all unvaccinated students, including all students under age 12 who are not yet eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine… but Gill says she’s still looking for more clarification about whether that’s a mandate or just a recommendation.

* CBS 2

Late last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced updated guidelines for schools to reopen safely — unvaccinated teachers and students will need to continue masking up, while those who are vaccinated can go without.

But as CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported Monday night, a growing chorus of administrators and parents are calling on the state to leave the choice up to them.

Not one of those reporters bothered to seek out a quote from anyone in state government to respond.

* So, I asked the governor’s office about this and was told the Illinois State Board of Education sent this to schools on Saturday…

Clarifying Mask Guidance

The Illinois Department of Public Health has fully adopted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated guidance for schools released on July 9. View the guidance and the press release.

Q: Is masking required in schools?

A: The CDC guidance that Illinois has fully adopted for all K-12 public and nonpublic schools states: “Masks should be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated. Consistent and correct mask use by people who are not fully vaccinated is especially important indoors and in crowded settings, when physical distancing cannot be maintained.

“The CDC continues to recommend masking and physical distancing as key prevention strategies. However, if school administrators decide to remove any of the prevention strategies for their school based on local conditions, they should remove them one at a time and monitor closely (with adequate testing through the school and/or community) for any increases in COVID-19 cases. Schools should communicate their strategies and any changes in plans to teachers, staff, and families, and directly to older students, using accessible materials and communication channels, in a language and at a literacy level that teachers, staff, students, and families understand.

“Schools should work with local public health officials to determine the prevention strategies needed in their area by monitoring levels of community transmission (i.e., low, moderate, substantial, or high) and local vaccine coverage, and use of screening testing to detect cases in K-12 schools … A school in a community with substantial or high transmission, with a low teacher, staff, or student vaccination rate, and without a screening testing program should continue to require masks for people who are not fully vaccinated.”

The local districts, in other words, can make their own decisions. It’s pretty broad guidance, not a mandate. “It’s up to local control,” a Pritzker spokesperson told me. And if the schools don’t follow the guidance? “There’s nothing much we can do,” was the response.

The question comes down to liability, however. If schools don’t follow the guidance and something bad happens, then the schools could be opened up to lawsuits. It’s the chance you take and there’s not anything that Illinois can do about the CDC.

* But this myth about how kids can’t get sick is being busted wide open in Mississippi right now

With a surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant in Mississippi, health officials are encouraging people to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

In a tweet on Tuesday, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said there are 12 children in the ICU due to the Delta variant. Ten of them are on life support.

According to Dobbs, a majority of the COVID-19 cases in Mississippi are the Delta variant. He said a “vast majority” of the cases, hospitalizations and deaths are of people who have not been vaccinated.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

6 Comments
  1. - Jocko - Tuesday, Jul 13, 21 @ 11:51 am:

    ==He said a “vast majority” of the cases==

    Why not say “all”…because I’m willing to bet it’s 100%.


  2. - Scott - Tuesday, Jul 13, 21 @ 12:05 pm:

    ==Why not say “all”…because I’m willing to bet it’s 100%.==

    I’ve heard approximately 99.2% across the US, so not technically 100%, but really really close. That little 0.8% is the very few “breakthrough” cases (and is why the vaccine isn’t technically considered 100% effective).

    Still WAY more effective than our usual goal for vaccines, and by far the most effective way of preventing the spread of COVID.


  3. - Merle Webb - Tuesday, Jul 13, 21 @ 12:57 pm:

    Seeing the wording from ISBE and the comments from Gov. Pritzker’s staff, I have no doubts as to how my rural school will return in terms of masks and distancing. I’m guessing it will be indistinguishable from Feb 2020. My county is less than 40% fully vaccinated and I would think that number would be closer to 25% for those of high school age. It’s probably not going to be an issue, but ripe for an outbreak.


  4. - Not a Superstar - Tuesday, Jul 13, 21 @ 12:59 pm:

    One thing the school administrators were focused on before last week’s announcement was the disconnect between 3’ for social distancing purposes and 6’ for quarantine purposes—which leads to large numbers of students out of school for each positive case. Not sure if that is still up for discussion.


  5. - PublicServant - Tuesday, Jul 13, 21 @ 1:32 pm:

    I would think the insurers should be providing the guidance. That being that you’re on your own if students get sick and die from covid, if you’ve chosen not to follow the CDC guidelines. Money, or lack thereof, talks as they say.


  6. - Aunt Marie - Wednesday, Jul 14, 21 @ 2:23 pm:

    What makes me nervous is their reliance on local testing. For milder cases symptoms of Delta variant aren’t as obviously Covid as previously, so fewer will get tested for it. Add in the people who don’t think it’s dangerous and won’t bother with a test and you aren’t going to get a true picture of community spread.


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