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What Is The Student Masking Guidance As The New School Year Approaches?

It’s less than a month from the first day of school for many. With a recent surge in COVID cases across the country, some worry they could see the same restrictions as last year.

Lisa Gonzalez is DeKalb County’s Public Health Administrator. She says the county started offering vaccines to kids 12 to 17 in May, but they don’t have solid data on how many children have had doses.

“There was a lot of interest initially. Is it ever as good as we hope it would be? No,” she said.

COVID outbreaks at Illinois summer camps are especially worrisome. She said they’ve been sending out vaccine information to parents through school districts and holding clinics at schools and community sites.

Gonzalez says there’s still a good amount of interest in the Pfizer vaccine, but their number of daily clients is way down from the beginning of the summer.

With variants on the rise, she says she’s cautiously optimistic but still concerned.

“We did see a small uptick at the end of last week into this week. So we're watching it closely because we are seeing trends trending upward throughout the state,” she said.

As the school year approaches, Gonzalez hopes they'll see more parents interested in the COVID vaccine as they come for other back-to-school shots in August.

The CDC and local health officials say returning kids to full-time in-person learning is a priority. They also recommend that unvaccinated students and staff wear masks. Since vaccines aren’t approved for kids under 12 years old yet, that means all elementary school kids would be masked indoors at the start of the year.

Not everyone agrees. A group of Rockford residents recently protested the Winnebago County Health Department, holding up “unmask our children” signs.

Gonzalez says other than the masking issue, guidance hasn’t changed much since the spring. They’re still advising 3 feet of physical distance, along with quarantines, encouraging air ventilation and other safety protocols.

Peter joins WNIJ as a graduate of North Central College. He is a native of Sandwich, Illinois.