Md. strongly recommending but not requiring masks for unvaccinated students returning to school

The Maryland health and education departments are strongly recommending but not requiring those who are unvaccinated to wear a mask inside when they return to in-person learning this fall.

This includes all indoor settings outside of their home and in outdoor settings when social distancing cannot be maintained, according to updated guidance for K-12 and child care.

Local school systems, private schools and child care programs can set their own policies for their schools, students, teachers and staff; but the Maryland Department of Health and the State Department of Education are also recommending, in addition to the guidance, that schools follow several prevention strategies needed to protect those who are not yet fully vaccinated.

The departments cite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which they said recommends that the strategies be informed by monitoring levels of community transmission, local vaccine coverage and testing.

Maryland’s guidance comes just days after Virginia released its guidance on mask-wearing inside elementary schools. It also veers from D.C.’s, which is currently asking anyone entering a school when classes start Aug. 31 to wear a mask and maintain as much distance as possible from others — although D.C. schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said that could change.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan lifted the mask mandate in May for fully vaccinated people in several settings.

Under a federal order, masks must still be worn while on public transportation, including school buses.

On the podcast “The Takeout” Friday, Hogan cited the state’s vaccination rates — 76% of those 18 or older are vaccinated already — as the reason children will not be required to wear a mask when they go back to school or why the state won’t impose a vaccine mandate once the Food and Drug Administration approves the vaccines for children, CBS News reported.

The D.C. area joins schools across the country navigating not just mask requirement but also vaccine rules and social distancing as they gear up for the fall and the return to in-person classes.

Earlier this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended universal masking in schools, even for those who are vaccinated; however, the CDC earlier this month recommended mask-wearing indoors only for students and staff who are not fully vaccinated, The Associated Press reported.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with Virginia’s mask guidance for elementary schools.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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