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Two agencies at odds over masks in schools

The American Academy of Pediatrics says everyone needs to mask up in the classroom, while the CDC says if you’re vaccinated, you can ditch the face covering.

NORFOLK, Va. — Two agencies are at odds over masks in schools.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says everyone needs to “mask up” in the classroom, while the CDC says if you’re vaccinated, you can ditch the face covering.

Mira Roberts has had to navigate the pandemic with her seven and eight-year-old kids.

"It’s been a challenge," she says.

Now, as her children prepare to go back to the classroom, she's hearing the conflicting reports.

The American Academy of Pediatrics released their recommendation on Monday, stating anyone over two years old needs to mask up. But earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control said only teachers and students that are not vaccinated should wear a mask.

The FDA has only approved the vaccine for people 12 and older, so Roberts’ kids don’t qualify yet.

"I will definitely require them to wear masks until they’re vaccinated, for sure. So, that would be no matter what the school is saying."

Even if they were vaccinated, she says she would still lean toward keeping the masks on.

"It would really depend on what it looked like at the school. If they’re in a class of 25 kids, really close together and I’m not gonna know the status of other kids in the room, I probably would just continue to mask them."

Dr. Elizabeth Broderick, a pediatrician in Newport News, says the AAP’s recommendation falls in line with what they’ve said all along.

"Their stated goal is in-person school. So, their recommendation today about masks is right in line with the stated goal," she says. "To maximize everyone’s ability to attend in-person school safely."

But with the differing recommendations and so much information online, who should parents listen to?

"I would talk to your primary care doctor. We’re available in person and on the phone literally every day," says Broderick.

That’s what Roberts says she’s been doing all along.

"I listen to our specific doctors," she says. "I look at the information coming out from a variety of reputable sources and then I make the decision on my own based on like my risk tolerance, what I think my kids are capable of, and wanting to live a real life in the midst of all of this."

For now, Broderick says she is still recommending masks for everyone.

"Delta variant is here. Delta is much more contagious than the original variant of COVID," she says. "I’m recommending in the grocery store, in indoor public spaces, that parents and children continue to mask. I’m tired of it, we’re all tired of it, but COVID is not gone."

Kids under 12 are still not eligible to be vaccinated. 

The AAP says that combined with the difficulty of tracking who is vaccinated and who isn’t are two of the main reasons they are recommending masks in the classroom for everyone.

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