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. Photo by Defining Studios.

Teachers unions in the region say wearing masks indoors will help students and staff return safely to in-person learning this fall. With rising COVID-19 cases, the CDC this week adjusted its guidance, and now recommends universal mask-wearing in schools.

The Connecticut Education Association‘s Kate Dias said the teachers union expects the state to ensure school districts follow the CDC’s new recommendations. She said she hopes to hear more soon from Gov. Ned Lamont.

“We can’t wait until the last minute,” Dias said. “So I’m looking for the governor to make a decision solidly in the next couple of weeks, recognizing that we could get to mid-September and he may have to revisit that.”

Lamont said he’s reviewing the guidance, and wants to wait until closer to the school year to decide.

Meanwhile, Merrie Najimy of the Massachusetts Teachers Association wants state leaders to adopt the CDC recommendations without delay.

“We’re waiting for the commissioner to do his job, and reach out, and so far, he’s been silent this week,” Najimy said.

A spokesperson for Commissioner Jeff Riley of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education could not be reached immediately for comment.

Both Najimy and Dias underscored the importance of keeping safe students under age 12, who cannot yet be vaccinated.

Note: some NEPM staff are represented by the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

This story was first published July 29 by New England Public Media.