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Betsy DeVos-created Great Lakes Education Project says CDC recommendation for students to wear masks in school is purely political

August 15, 2021

In late July, the Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP), released the following statement:

“This is the worst kind of politics being played on our children.  After an emotionally, mentally and physically exhausting school year locked out of classrooms by the likes of Governor Whitmer and the education union bosses, our children are now faced with this latest attack by the CDC.   

“This is nothing more than the next step in a line of attacks on families and students. Even in May, emails obtained through FOIA revealed that the American Federation of Teachers lobbied and influenced CDC guidelines on the reopening of schools. 

“We are left to wonder what science is leading the CDC decision-making on masks for school-aged children with this new recommendation a week after President Biden speculated that new mask mandates might be coming.” 

The narratives that groups create, especially around the COVID pandemic, are very instructive. No one denies that it hasn’t been hard on students, parents and teachers during the pandemic, but to suggest that the CDC is playing politics is just ridiculous. GLEP makes lots of claims about union bosses and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), but only offers FOIA obtained e-mails, which suggested that the AFT influenced the CDC policy on school reopening. However, what the GLEP Press Release fails to acknowledge is that their organization has consistently endorsed Republican State Legislators, as well as influencing those same politicians with campaign contributions over the years. Who again is playing politics with the lives of students in Michigan?

In addition, the CDC is just making a recommendation and not adopting a mandate on school-aged children being required to wear masks while attending school. A recommendation doesn’t carry the force of law, but it does reflect that with the growing number of delta variant cases across the country, that wearing a mask while indoors is simply sound public health policy.

The Centers for Disease Control have clear and comprehensive guidelines on COVID and K-12 Schools, which you can find at this link. Here are some of the major recommendations for K-12:

  • Students benefit from in-person learning, and safely returning to in-person instruction in the fall 2021 is a priority.
  • Vaccination is the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Promoting vaccination can help schools safely return to in-person learning as well as extracurricular activities and sports.
  • Due to the circulating and highly contagious Delta variant, CDC recommends universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.
  • In addition to universal indoor masking, CDC recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms to reduce transmission risk. When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, such as when schools cannot fully re-open while maintaining these distances, it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as screening testing.
  • Screening testing, ventilation, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, staying home when sick and getting tested, contact tracing in combination with quarantine and isolation, and cleaning and disinfection are also important layers of prevention to keep schools safe.
  • Students, teachers, and staff should stay home when they have signs of any infectious illness and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care.
  • Many schools serve children under the age of 12 who are not eligible for vaccination at this time. Therefore, this guidance emphasizes implementing layered prevention strategies (e.g., using multiple prevention strategies together consistently) to protect students, teachers, staff, visitors, and other members of their households and support in-person learning.
  • Localities should monitor community transmission, vaccination coverage, screening testing, and occurrence of outbreaks to guide decisions on the level of layered prevention strategies (e.g., physical distancing, screening testing).

All of these recommendations appear to be sound and have prevention and public health concerns as the main focus. Is having the well being of students, teachers, school administrators and parents playing politics or just smart public health?

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