Department of Health: Masks required for all K-12 students and staff heading back to classroom

The Washington State Department of Health Wednesday released updated guidance for the 2021-2022 school year aimed at helping students, teachers and staff return safely to the classroom. The department said in a news release that its guidance “aims to minimize transmission and maximize in-person instruction and is informed by the latest science, recently released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, and recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.”

Everyone 12 and older is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. As of July 24, a total of 35% of 12- to 15-year-olds and 44% of 16- to 17-year-olds in Washington state were fully vaccinated. The health department encourages those who are not vaccinated to make an appointment as soon as possible.

“While children who get COVID-19 typically have milder symptoms than adults, children do get COVID-19 and can transmit it,” the announcement said. “Severe disease is rare, but some children require hospitalization. Further, the Delta variant, which spreads more than twice as easily from one person to another compared to earlier strains, has surged to become the predominant variant in Washington. Given this, the high mixing of vaccinated and unvaccinated people in schools, and the fact that vaccines are not available to children younger than 12, universal masking is required in all Washington state K-12 schools.”

To protect those who have not been vaccinated and reduce risk of transmission, public and private K-12 schools must use the following layered prevention strategies:

  • All school personnel, volunteers, visitors, and students must wear cloth face coverings or masks regardless of vaccination status when indoors and on school buses.
  • Schools should maintain at least 3 feet of physical distancing between students in classroom settings, to the degree possible and reasonable, that allows for full-time, in-person learning for all students.
  • Schools must have good ventilation and indoor air quality, cleaning and disinfecting procedures, and continue to encourage frequent handwashing and good respiratory etiquette.
  • Students and school employees who have symptoms of COVID-19 or the flu should stay home and seek medical attention, which may include COVID-19 testing.
  • Schools must have plans in place to quickly respond to COVID-19 cases among students and staff.

Quarantine protocols have been updated to limit student exclusion from the classroom. Students do not have to quarantine if symptom free and: they were at least 3 feet away from an infected student and both students were wearing masks, the student is fully vaccinated, or if the student had a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the past three months.

“The goal of these layered prevention strategies is to protect people who are not fully vaccinated, including students, staff, and their families from COVID-19 infections,” said Deputy Secretary Lacy Fehrenbach. “Outbreaks can and have occurred in K-12 schools. These measures limit transmission in schools which will minimize the disruptions of quarantines and classroom or school closures caused by outbreaks. It is important we do everything we can to keep our classrooms safe, students and staff healthy, and schools open.”

  1. No one else is commenting on this so I shall. Putting the “dehumanizing rags of Tyranny” on young children ( again) for many hours of the day is statistically unnecessary child abuse. It has been shown ( look at the stats ) that children very rarely get or transmit the C-19 or it’s (supposed) variant. This is nothing more than a “push” to get everyone “shot up” and little kids are being used as the bludgeon. Any shred of respect I may have had for politicians, medical bureaucrats , and teacher’s unions is gone and will never return.

  2. I heard kids aren’t allowed to talk to each other at lunch. Where are the brave teachers we keep hearing about who stick up for the children?

  3. The powers that be have not given one single legitimate reason to vaccinate any child. Someone please show the data supporting masks, lockdowns or vaccine efficacy for children. The CDC doesn’t even track vaccine status of deaths. Where is all of this science I keep hearing about?

  4. This is dangerous stuff! Tens of thousands are sick, thousands hospitalized and hundreds dying each day unnecessarily. Too many people hide behind obscure or irrelevant scientific studies. Others complain of a tyranny or a state conspiracy that do not exist. The facts are that the vaccines work. It is a lie to say they don’t. Our public health officials have offered us ways out of this crisis as the dangers from the virus have evolved.
    As a parent of two children and a retired teacher with 39 years of experiences in the classroom and 3 as athletics and activities director, I have plenty of anecdotal accounts about what children can handle in a crisis. They are generally more resilient than adults when rules are clear, consistent and make sense. Public health officials have done this in preparation for the opening of schools. Others have confused the messaging. The youngsters under 12 will not be able to be vaccinated. They and the adults they deal with need to wear masks and work in buildings with excellent ventilation. There will need to be testing and sensitive isolation for all who test positive.
    Those who are able but refuse to be vaccinated damage our children’s opportunities for success. Those who deny the effectiveness of the vaccines are hurting children., as are those for whom wearing a mask infringes on their warped sense of freedom. Our schools would open under more normal circumstances if those medically able would get vaccinated and all of us would mask up when and where public health officials indicate the need.

  5. And now, the media is having to admit what was known from the beginning. The vaccines do not prevent infection or transmission. The manufacturers admitted as much in their documentation. They were more effective with the alpha variant than the delta, explaining the uptick in a fully vaccinated Olympic Games. Instead of our government actually dealing with this pandemic, we are going to fall back to the very treatments that have been unsuccessful. Now, the vaccines are wearing off for many and the lies continue, along with the censoring of eminently qualified virologists around the world. Robert W Malone, the inventor of mRNA, should be allowed back on social media and his views should be allowed by all media. We deserve to hear all of the scientists and make informed decisions on our own health.

  6. Perhaps you lean toward an overly black-and-white view of the situation. Statistics show the greatest number of cases are in areas where vaccination rates are the lowest. If the vaccines are not 100% effective – which no one ever claimed the were – real world results show that the are a very valuable tool in limiting the spread of the disease.

    “Several studies, including ones referenced in the C.D.C.’s presentation, have shown that vaccines remain effective against the Delta variant, particularly against hospitalization and death. That has held true in the real world: About 97 percent of those recently hospitalized by the virus were unvaccinated, the C.D.C. said. But in counties where vaccination rates are low, cases are rising fast, and deaths are also on the rise.”

    Mask up where appropriate, and get vaccinated!

  7. From a Houston pediatrician:

    We are officially back to getting crushed by #COVID, and for #pediatricians this wave feels *worse* in many ways. And as a pediatric hospitalist who has been a front-line COVID doctor for the entire pandemic, I’m going to share what I’ve seen the last 8 days on service. 1/
    After many months of zero or few pediatric COVID cases, we are seeing infants, children, and teens with COVID pouring back into the hospital, more and more each day. These patients ranged in age from 2 weeks old to 17 years.


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