Face masks seem unlikely in Pa. schools this fall, barring no ‘extreme’ COVID-19 outbreak – PennLive

With COVID-19 cases and deaths remaining stubbornly high in the United States, the federal government has no short-term plans to dial back recommendations for things including face masks in schools, according to a recent report by NBC News.

That means the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would continue to recommend wearing face masks in indoor public settings including schools in counties with a “high COVID-19 community level.”

In Pennsylvania, more than a dozen counties had a high community level of COVID-19 cases as of last week, according to the latest data from the CDC.

In the Harrisburg region, Lebanon County was the only county with a high level. However, most other counties in the region, including Dauphin, Cumberland, Perry and York, had medium levels, putting them one notch below the level that would trigger an indoor masking recommendation.

Still, the vast majority of U.S. school districts, about 97%, aren’t presently requiring face masks, according to Burbio, which tracks face mask policies of 500 large school districts around the country.

Moreover, a Pennsylvania official says he doesn’t expect masks will be required in many schools.

“My guess is that you will have very few districts with masking mandates … Only if it becomes an extreme outbreak will they put that into place,” said Mark DiRocco in a recent interview. DiRocco is the director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators.

Throughout the summer, COVID-19 cases and deaths have remained surprisingly high, with the United States averaging about 130,000 new cases per day in mid-July. Cases have fallen slightly, to a seven-day average of about 111,000 new cases per day as of Monday.

Still, those numbers don’t reflect the true number of cases, since most people now use home tests that aren’t reported to the government.

The United States is averaging about 500 COVID-19 deaths per day.

But the good news is that the overall threat from COVID-19 has dropped significantly, due to the fact most Americans now have some level of immunity, because of vaccination, getting infected with COVID-19, or both.

That seems apparent in the fact that the summer surge of cases hasn’t stressed hospitals.

In the Harrisburg region, for example, there were 42 people with COVID-19 being treated within UPMC’s seven hospitals in the region as of late July. However, only two were sick to the point of needing breathing ventilators. And most of the others, while testing positive for COVID-19, weren’t hospitalized because of it, according to Dr. John Goldman, a UPMC infectious disease specialist.

The CDC is expected to soon issue new recommendations for health precautions, including face masks and isolation for people who have been exposed to COVID-19, according to a recent report by NBC News.

NBC News said it had reviewed a draft document that contained “no significant changes in the current advice to mask, test or isolate.”

NBC News said the CDC decision not to significantly ease the recommendations is likely based on the fact about 500 people per day continue to die of COVID-19 in the United States.

Dr. Patrick Gavigan, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, recently told PennLive he recommends face masks at school for children who have medical conditions that put them at high risk, or if someone at home is at high risk from an infection brought home from school.

He said children who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 are generally less likely to need to protection from a face mask.

He further advised parents to pay attention to the level of spread in the local community when trying to decide if their child is better off wearing a mask at school.

DiRocco says it will be up to local schools districts to decide whether or not to require masks, and he expects those decisions will be based on the level of local cases.

People can track the level of spread in their community here.


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