COVID-19: CDC recommends all students wear masks in school; DCPS reviews guidelines

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Duval County Public Schools confirmed it is reviewing the new mask guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday.

In a reversal from its previous position, the CDC recommended all students and staff to wear masks in school regardless of their vaccination status.

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It follows the American Academy of Pediatrics, which stated last week that everyone ages two and up should wear masks regardless of whether they’re vaccinated.

In a statement to Action News Jax, Duval County Public Schools stated, “The district is in consultation with the Florida Department of Health-Duval this week to review the new guidance from the CDC and discuss health and safety guidelines going into the new school year.”

Last week, the district changed its masking language in response to the uptick in COVID-19 cases in Duval County:

“The district strongly recommends that unvaccinated students wear masks unless medical or developmental conditions prohibit use. The wearing of facial coverings is optional for the school-day and school-related events including bus transportation. Should recommendations from the Florida Department of Education, the Florida Department of Health, and/or the City of Jacksonville be revised, the district may revise its requirements to comply with updated guidance.”

Action News Jax asked the Florida Department of Education if it was planning to change its guidance. We are still waiting to hear back.

St. Johns County School Board Member Beverly Slough said as of Tuesday, masks would remain optional within the district.

She added that St. Johns County is taking everything into consideration and will change course if the Florida Department of Education releases new guidelines.

Less than a third of children ages 12 to 17 across the country are vaccinated.

Wolfson Children’s Hospital reported it had 18 cases of COVID-19 in the hospital, including six in the ICU. That is double the cases reported more than a week ago July 16.

“I’m concerned [students are] going to be spreading it, and they’re going to be catching it, and then it’s going to be wildfire,” DCPS teacher Chris Guerrieri said.

A petition to mandate masks was started by a Duval County parent with more than 600 signatures as of Tuesday night.

Some parents said they want to keep masks optional.

“Our kids don’t want to wear them. The flip-flop, going back and forth — that’s confusing,” Victoria Dykes, a DCPS parent said, referring to the CDC’s change in guidance. In May, it stated masks were no longer recommended indoors for students or staff who were vaccinated.

“We just want to keep that option. We don’t want to take anything away from anybody else. But we just want that option to not have to wear them,” she added.

LINK: Where to get a free COVID-19 test in the Jacksonville area

Dykes has five children, including an elementary student. She said she’s concerned about the bacteria that could get on her daughter’s mask throughout the day.

“She’s going to drop it on the ground. Pick it up. Stick it on her arm. Stick it in her pocket,” she said.