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CDC recommends schools maintain mask requirements

The CDC said it isn't changing its 2020-2021 school year COVID-19 guidance, meaning students and staff should continue to wear masks.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday recommended that all schools continue to use masks during the 2020-2021 academic school year.

The CDC said that all K-12 schools should "implement and layer prevention strategies and should prioritize universal and correct use of masks and physical distancing."

Current guidance from the CDC recommends that masks are worn at all times by all students, teachers, and staff to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It says masks "should be required in all classroom and non-classroom settings" including hallways, restrooms, gyms, school buses, etc. The 3-feet distance rule for masked students should also remain in place, the CDC said.

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The news comes after the health agency eased its guidance for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings. However, the new guidance for fully vaccinated individuals still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters.

“We have all longed for this moment — when we can get back to some sense of normalcy,” Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said a White House briefing on Thursday.

The CDC and President Joe Biden's administration have faced pressure to ease restrictions on fully vaccinated people — those who are two weeks past their last required COVID-19 vaccine dose — in part to highlight the benefits of getting the shots. The country’s aggressive vaccination campaign has paid off: U.S. virus cases are at their lowest rate since September, deaths are at their lowest point since last April and the test positivity rate is at the lowest point since the pandemic began.

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This week U.S. health advisers also endorsed the use of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine in kids as young as 12. CDC health advisers said Wednesday that the shots will let kids safely attend camps this summer and help assure a more normal return to classrooms next school year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.