Atlanta students must wear masks when school starts, district says

Atlanta Public Schools, one of the nation’s first districts to begin its school year next month, will require masks for all students and teachers in school and on buses, the district announced Thursday.

The announcement comes despite Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s rolling back such measures in an executive order.

The universal mask wearing protocol will start as the new school year begins on August 5, according to the announcement.

Factors that the district considered include the rise of the Delta variant and that children younger than 12 are not yet eligible for Covid-19 vaccines.

Only about 18% of eligible students in the district are fully vaccinated, officials said, citing Fulton County Board of Health data, and “approximately 58% of district employees have indicated that they are fully vaccinated or plan to be,” the district said.

Masks will not be required during recess or other outdoor activities.

The American Academy of Pediatrics this week said it recommends universal masking in school of everyone over the age of 2, regardless of vaccination status, largely because a significant number of students are not yet eligible for vaccines.

That’s as cities, states and school districts take varying approaches as the new school year nears. Texas and Iowa are prohibiting public schools from requiring masks, while at least six states are requiring all K-12 students to wear masks in school: Connecticut, Hawaii, New Mexico, New York, Virginia and Washington.

California is requiring masks in all schools, but leaving enforcement up to individual districts. Los Angeles County last weekend reinstated its countywide mask mandate for people indoors

In Georgia, Gov. Kemp signed an executive order effective May 31 that prevents schools from using the state’s public health emergency order as a basis for mask mandates, but does not prohibit them from requiring masks.

DeKalb County and Clayton County school districts, both in the Atlanta area, have announced that they will require masks when the school year begins in early August.

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