Will North Carolina follow CDC recommendations on masks in schools?

Friday, July 9, 2021
Will North Carolina follow CDC recommendations on masks in schools?
An NCDHHS spokesperson said the state is evaluating the recommendation but that there are still many North Carolinians who aren't vaccinated, including children.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- It is unclear if North Carolina schools will follow the CDC's recommendation that fully vaccinated students, teachers and other staff don't have to wear masks in school next year.

The CDC is still calling for those who are unvaccinated to mask up.

A spokesperson with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said the state is evaluating the recommendation but that there are still many North Carolinians who aren't vaccinated, including children.

Meanwhile, the state's largest public school system, Wake County, said they haven't reviewed the new CDC recommendation yet -- the district said they follow North Carolina law, which requires masks in schools.

Melanie Lewis, a Raleigh mother, said she's OK with children not wearing masks but when it comes to the teachers, "I'm a little bit weirded out with that just because we know to teach, you have to be hands-on, and in kids' faces," Lewis said. "You have to because you want to make sure you're on their level. So with that, it's kind of weird to me."

Brian Groesser has children that go to schools in the Wake County Public School System. He supports nobody wearing masks in schools. He feels COVID-19 cases among children are low enough.

"With that data in mind, is it significant enough that should require a mask mandate for everybody in school and I just don't see it with that data," Groesser said. "I just don't."

Groesser believes it's about time the CDC issued guidance regarding masks in schools.

"This is kind of like the last frontier, I guess you could say, as it relates to COVID and public places," Groesser said. "I guess airplanes would probably be the other one but schools and what do you do with the folks that are vaccinated, and why should they still be wearing a mask?"

The CDC says vaccinated children and teachers don't have to wear masks in school.

Cumberland County teacher Kimberly O'Callaghan has concerns about the recommendation, which would leave it up to local officials to figure out how a school will know who is and isn't vaccinated.

"It's really depending on the honor system," O'Callaghan said. "We're trusting that people who say that they are vaccinated are truly vaccinated and so I guess the assumption is if you're not wearing a mask, you are fully vaccinated. Whether or not that's true remains to be seen."

Kristin Beller, the president of the Wake North Carolina Association of Educators, says they are currently waiting to see what the NCDHHS recommends.

"We are waiting to see what NCDHHS recommends, or how they change their guidance to help local districts better move forward in a more seamless way, I guess," Beller said. "One that centers our students and the staff that works with them."

Mary Scott, a spokesperson for Governor Roy Cooper's office, sent the following statement: "The Governor and state health officials continue to follow the science, state trends and guidance from experts including the CDC in responding to the pandemic and they are reviewing this latest guidance."

NCDHHS sent a statement saying in part: "We need to prioritize protecting the children who have either not yet had the chance to be vaccinated, or are not yet eligible due to being under 12 years old. People who have not yet gotten their vaccine need to continue to wear a mask and keep their distance from other people to slow the spread of the virus and variants, until they are able to get vaccinated. The CDC continues to recommend that those who are unvaccinated wear a mask indoors, which includes the vast majority of K-12 students. All three COVID-19 vaccines we have in North Carolina are tested, safe and effective at protecting against serious illness, hospitalization, and death."

Durham Public Schools said their offices are closed on Friday due to summer hours and that the recommendation had not been discussed.

A spokesperson for Johnston County Public Schools said their offices were also closed Friday and that they are awaiting updated guidance based on the CDC update.

The spokesperson said they are following guidance outlined in the Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit.