“Right now our CDC guidance has not changed … We continue to endorse universal masking in schools,” said Dr. Walensky.
Jennifer Horney, PhD, a professor of epidemiology and a core faculty member at the disaster research center at the University of Delaware in Newark says that although governors and other elected executives are under tremendous pressure to begin the transition back toward a new normal, we must still keep public health in mind as we relax masking rules.
“In many cases, indoor mask mandates still do apply to those who are unvaccinated,” advises Dr. Horney. “You need to be up-to-date [with vaccinations], which includes a booster if eligible, in order to take your mask off indoors.”
For parents, the conflicting messaging from states and the federal government may be confusing, says Adrianna Bravo, MD, a pediatrician and a senior medical adviser for Inspire Diagnostics.
“Balancing the benefits and risks of mask wearing is the challenge right now,” says Dr. Bravo. “On one hand, mask wearing has been found to be both protective to the mask wearer and to others. Yet, with COVID rates falling in many places, how much do we need to continue to disrupt lives in order to mitigate that declining risk?”
Bravo advises that parents have to assess the risk presented by their particular situation.
“Unmasking is not necessarily an on-off switch, but rather best considered as a two-way dimmer switch that can be adjusted according to the risk presented,” she said. “Each individual, school, or business may choose to move their dimmer switches at different paces, at different times, in different amounts. The sweet spot is reached when COVID risk is low, negative social emotional impact is mitigated, and all constituents are comfortable and feeling safe.”