WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Wednesday that the Centers for Disease Control will “probably” advise kids under the age of 12 who are not yet able to receive the Covid-19 vaccine to wear face masks in school this fall.
“The CDC is going to say that what we should do is everyone under the age of 12 should probably be wearing a mask in school,” Biden said during a CNN town hall in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Biden said that kids older than 12 who are fully vaccinated should not wear a mask, but acknowledged that it could be difficult for some school districts to determine who is and is not vaccinated.
“It’s going to get a little big tight in terms of well, are Mom or Dad being honest that Johnny did or did not get vaccinated? That’s going to raise questions,” Biden said. “It’s a matter of community responsibility.”
Some local governments have brought back mask mandates in recent days as Covid cases and deaths have risen due to the highly transmissible delta variant and declining vaccination rates. Reports of breakthrough cases among vaccinated individuals have also raised questions about whether some health precautions should be reinstated.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said that he would wear a mask in certain parts of the country where vaccination rates are low. In an interview with CNBC on Wednesday, Fauci said if vaccinated people “want to go the extra mile of safety” they could consider wearing a mask indoors, particularly in crowded places.
Biden on Wednesday also said that he hoped that the Covid-19 vaccines would become available to kids under the age of 12 “soon,” but stressed that he was not pressuring the CDC or other health experts to rush to a decision.
“They’re not promising me any specific date, but my expectation talking to the group of scientists we put together, over 20 of them plus others in the field, is that sometime maybe in the beginning of the school year, at the end of August, beginning of September, October they’ll get a final approval,” Biden said.
A Food and Drug Administration official suggested last week that the timeline for emergency authorization for Covid-19 vaccines in children under 12 could be a bit later, likely early to midwinter.
Covid-19 vaccines have been authorized only for people ages 12 and up in the United States.
Whether children should be required to wear masks in schools regardless of vaccination status has been a point of tension among some health experts. The CDC said earlier this month that fully vaccinated students do not need to wear masks in classrooms, while the American Academy of Pediatrics on Monday recommended that all children over the age of 2 wear masks when returning to school this year, even if they are vaccinated.
School districts are not legally required to follow CDC guidance. Some local governments have already banned schools and colleges from requiring Covid-19 vaccinations and masks.