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Chicago schools requiring masks when schools reopen in fall

July 23, 2021 GMT

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Public Schools announced Thursday its students, teachers and staff will be required to wear masks indoors when they return to classrooms in August.

In a letter to parents, Chief Executive Officer José Torres said the policy is based on feedback from local, state and federal public health experts and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Visitors to school buildings will be required to wear masks regardless of vaccination status. Masks can be removed while eating or drinking and while students are engaged in outdoor activities, Torres told parents.

The school district’s announcement comes as the nation is seeing a surge in COVID-19 infections due to the delta variant.

The variant, which originated in India, now accounts for an estimated 83% of coronavirus samples genetically identified in the U.S. The CDC says it is the predominant strain in every region of the country and is spreading with efficiency.

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More than 50,000 children under the age of 18 have already been vaccinated in Chicago, according to the city’s Department of Public Health. About 350,000 students attend Chicago Public Schools. The district recently launched a COVID-19 vaccination effort, opening clinics in three high school in an effort to inoculate students before the new school year. CPS has told families the vaccine is free and health insurance is not required to get vaccinated, nor is proof of citizenship.

Pediatricians recently said everyone older than 2 should wear a mask in schools, regardless of vaccination status. However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this month fully vaccinated students, teachers and staff don’t need face coverings inside classrooms.

In Georgia, Atlanta Public Schools announced Thursday that it will implement a “universal mask wearing” policy in all of the system’s school buildings when fall classes begin.

Just 18% of eligible students in the Atlanta school system are fully vaccinated and 58% of its employees have said they are either fully vaccinated or plan to be, officials said.