Despite an uptick in COVID-19 cases in certain areas of the country, including here in our corner of Indiana due to the new Delta variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated guidelines Friday morning saying students and teachers across the country who have been vaccinated no longer need to wear masks when the new school year begins later this summer.

Citing the benefits to students of in-person learning, including "social and emotional development" compared to at-home, the updated guidelines state that getting students back into the classrooms safely for the fall 2021 school year "is a priority."

Unvaccinated Children

As of now, vaccines are only available to individuals 12-years-old and older which means students in grades Kindergarten through fifth or sixth grade won't be vaccinated by the time the school year begins because they simply can't be yet. Does that mean younger students will still need to wear masks? Not necessarily. For elementary schools and middle schools that may have a number of sixth grade students ineligible to receive a vaccine, the CDC recommends administrators for those schools work closely with their local health department to monitor the number of cases in their community, and implement other measures that will lower the risk of spreading the virus including maintaining a social distance of at least three feet if possible.

Get our free mobile app

Only Guidelines

Keep in mind, just because the CDC suggests something, doesn't make it the law of the land. The agency issues guidelines based on research and data they've collected and studied thoroughly to serve as guidance to government agencies, businesses, and in this case, schools, for their own health and safety policies. As previously mentioned, the agency strongly encourages schools and school corporations to work closely with their local health department to monitor local COVID cases and vaccination rates to help develop a strategy that works best for them. This means it's entirely possible your child's school may still require masks to be worn in the building when the school year starts, or if not, may require them again down the road if case numbers in the area start to rise dramatically.

You can read the updated guidelines in their entirety on the CDC website.

[Source: Centers for Disease Control]

LOOK: Answers to 30 common COVID-19 vaccine questions

While much is still unknown about the coronavirus and the future, what is known is that the currently available vaccines have gone through all three trial phases and are safe and effective. It will be necessary for as many Americans as possible to be vaccinated in order to finally return to some level of pre-pandemic normalcy, and hopefully these 30 answers provided here will help readers get vaccinated as soon they are able.

KEEP READING: 21 COVID-19 Testing Sites in the Tri-State