ACP calls for mask wearing in schools

The organization says requiring masks in schools would help in the fight against spreading COVID-19.

The American College of Physicians (ACP) says that requiring masks to be worn in school should be part of an area’s comprehensive public health strategy to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

According to a news release, the ACP is echoing the previous stance from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) as case counts rise across the country tied to the Delta variant .

“As a country, we have all been watching the number of COVID-19 cases rising precipitously over the past month,” said George M. Abraham, MD, MPH, FACP, FIDSA, president of ACP. “We need to ensure that we are availing ourselves of the public health measures available to us to combat this spread. This should include requiring all individuals, students, teachers, and staff, to wear masks in schools.”

Earlier this year the organization issued a policy statement recommending that governors require mask wearing in public facilities in their state including in schools, according to the release.

“Masks are a key public health tool in keeping everyone in our school communities safe,” Abraham says. “Especially with such a large segment of our schools’ populations unable to yet access COVID-19 vaccines, masks remain a necessity in our fight to control the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Despite early belief that children may not be susceptible to COVID-19, the latest report from the AAP found that as of July 29, nearly 4.2 million children have tested positive for the disease since the beginning of the pandemic and that infections steadily increased in July after declining earlier in the summer, Contemporary Pediatrics reports.

Children are still making up a small proportion of those hospitalized, accounting for between 1.3 percent and 3.5 percent of all hospitalizations. Between 0.1 percent and 1.9 percent of all child COVID cases have resulted in hospitalization.

The AAP’s recommendations

As reported by Contemporary Pediatrics,the AAP guidelines for the upcoming school year calls for all staff and students eligible for vaccination receive the shots, masks to be worn during in-person instruction, and it urges schools to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations on building ventilation, testing, quarantining, cleaning, and disinfecting.

The reasons given for the recommendation are:

  • Many students are not eligible to receive a vaccine.
  • It would be difficult to monitor or enforce a mandate that only included children who hadn’t been vaccinated.
  • Some schools are located in areas with low overall vaccination uptake.
  • Concern about the effect of variants, which may be more easily spread in a school environment.