Kindergarten students say the pledge of allegiance wearing masks at Roger Sherman Elementary School. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org
A group of excited students pose with their new backpacks containing school supplies, thermometers and new masks at the Hartford Public Schools and Hartford Foundation Back to School Drive in May. Photo by Defining Studios. Photo by Defining Studios.

Updated guidance released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday urging mask-wearing in schools did not prompt Gov. Ned Lamont to make any immediate decisions about what will be in store for kids and teachers returning this fall.

“We’re still reviewing CDC guidance but, similarly to what we’ve done in the past, we have been rather consistent when it comes to masks and CDC — but there’s no official stance at this point,” said Max Reiss, spokesperson for the governor.

The CDC’s updated guidance recommends that teachers, staff and students continue to wear masks in schools regardless of their vaccination status. Earlier this month, the American Academy of Pediatrics also released similar guidance strongly recommending universal mask-wearing “because a significant portion of the student population is not yet eligible for vaccines.”

“Currently, both Hartford County and New London County are close to the threshold described by the CDC for universal masking,” Reiss said in an email. “Even in states that have some of the lowest infection rates in the country, vaccinated people who are immunocompromised, otherwise considered high-risk, live with individuals who are high-risk or with unvaccinated children, may want to consider wearing masks in indoor public settings.”

Although the governor’s office is still reviewing the CDC recommendations, Lamont still holds his emergency executive powers until the end of September, and the current mandate states that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear face masks or face coverings “except for in certain rare settings,” one of which includes schools.

Before the CDC updated its recommendations on Tuesday, the state Department of Education released interim recommendations to district superintendents that advises they follow the governor’s existing executive order regarding masks in schools but also stated that “updates to mask guidance for the Fall 2021 school year will be finalized in the coming weeks.”

“The best action all of our students over the age of 12 and educators could do to support a safe return to school is to receive one of the COVID-19 vaccines,” Reiss said. “To that end, the Department of Public Health and the State Department of Education are assisting local school districts and public health partners in coordinating on-site school vaccination clinics in all of our districts through the late summer into the early fall.”

The state’s largest teachers union, the Connecticut Education Association, said the new CDC guidance aligns with their priorities, which is to make sure students and their families can be in the schools safely.

Kate Dias, CEA’s new president, said she understands that people continue to have frustrations with mask-wearing but explained that masks are “the most responsible way to ensure that students stay in school” in the absence of vaccines.

“I think we really have to be serious about masks, otherwise we’re going to create a revolving door again, which was the worst experience last year,” Dias said in an interview. “So our priority is to get kids back into school safely, and I think that at the moment, because of the way this virus is progressing, what the CDC is requiring is the best precautions we can put out there.”

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Adria was CT Mirror's Education and Community Reporter. She grew up in Oakland, graduated from Sacramento State where she was co-news editor of the student newspaper, and worked as a part-time reporter at CalMatters. Most recently Adria interned at The Marshall Project, a national nonprofit news organization that reports on criminal justice issues. Adria was one of CT Mirror’s Report For America Corps Members.