Chicago, Boston, and Atlanta this week joined the growing list of cities nationwide that will require students to wear masks when they return to the classroom next month as coronavirus cases are on the rise.
The U.S. saw nearly 44,000 new cases of COVID-19 on a daily basis over the last seven days – a more than 50 percent increase in the number of cases reported from the week prior, according to data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
More than 56 percent of all Americans have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, but cases are again on the rise as the delta variant has spread to every U.S. state.
Children under the age of 12 have not yet been approved to receive the vaccine.
“Continuing to require masks will help make sure those in our school communities who are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, which encompasses the majority of our students, remain as safe as possible,” Chicago Public Schools said in a letter to parents this week.
Earlier this month the CDC said students “benefit from in-person learning” and called on schools nationwide to make it a “priority” for students to safely return to the classroom.
Public schools in major cities from Boston to Atlanta also made it a requirement this week that both students and teachers don masks while in the classroom or on the bus, though students are permitted to remove their masks for activities like recess and while eating.
At least seven states and the District of Columbia have either announced they will require students to wear masks or have called on schools to implement masks requirements for students in Kindergarten through 12th grade, including California, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Mexico, New York, Virginia, and Washington – though state enforcement policies vary.
Texas and Iowa have banned public school mask mandates, but some cities like Austin have encouraged students to mask up.
Other cities are toeing the line and have called for temporary mask mandates as the fall term begins, including Cleveland which has called for a five-week mask order for students and teachers.
The CDC has recommended that masks still be worn by all individuals who are not fully vaccinated, ages two and older, while indoors.