Chicago Public Schools Break With CDC, Mandate Masks For Vaccinated Students And Teachers

Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images

Anders Hagstrom White House Correspondent
Font Size:

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will require students, teachers and staff to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status, despite guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) saying otherwise.

The Chicago Public Schools system, the third-largest in the country, announced the policy late Thursday. The CDC updated its guidance in early July, calling for all schools to fully reopen in the fall and to allow vaccinated teachers and students to forgo masks. CPS officials cited guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) which does recommend masking in schools for even vaccinated people. (RELATED: We Asked Teachers Unions Nationwide Why They Oppose Reopening Schools. Here’s What They Said)

“Based on feedback from our public health experts at the local, state and federal levels, as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics, we will require that masks/cloth face coverings continue to be worn indoors by everyone, regardless of vaccination status, except for while eating or drinking. This includes students, educators, support staff and all visitors to school buildings,” interim CPS Chief Executive Officer José Torres wrote in a letter to parents, according to the Chicago Tribune.

While the CDC guidance made room for local governments to make their own decisions on universal mask mandates, it recommended that schools only do so if the surrounding area showed signs of more severe COVID-19 outbreaks. Experts suggest the cutoff should be 5 hospitalizations per 100,000 people, a metric Chicago falls short of.

Chicago, a city with a population of more than 2.7 million, reported 135 COVID-19 total hospitalizations as of Tuesday, putting the region at 4.9 hospitalizations per 100,000.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated Monday that President Joe Biden’s administration supports the CDC guidance, but would not impose them on local school districts.

“The President is going to rely on the recommendations of the CDC,” Psaki said. “Also local school districts will make their own decisions based on the publicly available health guidelines.”

Psaki held to the federal government’s support for the CDC guidelines when pressed on the contrasting messages coming from the CDC and AAP.

“We rely, from the federal government, on the guidance of the CDC, and that’s how we make recommendations on public health issues from the federal government,” she said.

“There will be different decisions made by school districts, just like there will be different decisions made by local communities. We certainly understand and recognize that, but we will continue to rely on the CDC for guidelines and guidance,” she finished.