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Gov. Kay Ivey said he does not believe Alabama schools need a face mask to reopen safely, despite a recommendation issued Monday by the National Pediatric Professional Association that all children over the age of 2 wear masks at school, regardless of vaccination status.
American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidance comes as COVID-19 cases increase across the state, and hundreds of new cases are now reported every day – nowhere near the highest at the beginning of the year, but growth has increased from the silence of the summer. Hospital care has increased in the stateAccording to the Alabama Hospital Association, four children are hospitalized from the hospital.
Doctors and health authorities urge school staff and eligible students to vaccinate before the start of the school year, but vaccines are only allowed for children over 12 years of age. Experts say the benefits of vaccination – protection against serious illness and death – exceed the potential risks.
The AAP guidelines stated that “a significant portion of the student population is not vaccinable.” Universal camouflage would make it easier to protect young children from serious illnesses, supporters say.
As Alabama schools prepare to open in a few weeks, there is no nationwide mask or social distance mandate, although individual school districts could decide to do so.
The proportion of fully vaccinated children under the age of 18 is in the state 3.1%, According to the Mayo Clinic. Only Idaho and Mississippi have lower vaccination rates in that age group.
In light of the new guidance, Ivey’s spokeswoman said in a statement: “Governor Ivey believes students need to be in the classroom without any disguise. He continues to encourage all eligible Alabameans to turn up their sleeves and obtain a vaccine to make COVID-19 a distant memory. “
The pediatricians ’recommendation also went beyond the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which on July 9 issued guidelines recommending that only students and staff who are not fully vaccinated wear masks in schools. The federal agency stated that layered prevention strategies – i.e., using cover, social distance, and ventilation together – should be implemented in schools that serve children under the age of 12 who are not eligible for the vaccine.
Dr. David Kimberlin, director of the Department of Infectious Diseases for Children in Alabama and UAB, said the CDC guidelines are smooth and likely to evolve if cases continue to grow across the country. He encourages school districts to follow the agency’s recommendations closely.
“We may have a virus, but the virus doesn’t work with us,” Kimberlin said. “When cases occur throughout the community, it makes sense for the community to respond.”
The Alabama Department of Public Health will publish its own, updated School Toolkit by 2021-2022, probably by the end of the month, according to officials.