Metro area health officials reiterate need for masks in schools

By The Examiner staff

Public health agencies in the metro area, including the Jackson County Health Department, recommend that school districts continue to require masks in school buildings, given the CDC’s latest guidelines on masks and that children under age 12 are not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccines. 

Several area school districts announced earlier this month that they would no longer mandate masks for students and staff for the rest of the school year, saying that Jackson County and Independence had lifted what remained of their public health restrictions, though they recommended them for unvaccinated people. Those school districts include Blue Springs, Fort Osage, Grain Valley, Lee’s Summit and Oak Grove. 

The Independence School District did not lift its mask requirement for the rest of the school year and has not announced any changes for summer school. The Grain Valley and Lee’s Summit school districts still require masks on school buses. Many other school districts also just have one week left. 

Children age 12-older can now receive the Pfizer vaccine, and all three vaccines – Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – are available for people age 18 and older. 

The CDC announced May 13 that vaccinated people did not need to wear masks indoors or outdoors, save for public transportation. Many municipal governments soon announced they were lifting mask requirements, though businesses and other institutions are still free to require them. The CDC on May 15 clarified that schools should still require masks for the rest of the school year because so few students have been vaccinated. 

Rex Archer, director of Kansas City’s health department, said in a release Friday that schools in the area have been able to maintain low COVID-19 numbers because of their mask and social distancing policies. 

“We know that wearing a mask works,” he said. “Let’s end the school year safely by masking up in our schools.”