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New CDC guidance for schools encourages vaccination and masks


The guidance is in stark contrast to statements by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo against vaccination and mask wearing — particularly when it comes to COVID-19.

New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aims to help schools reduce the spread of infections, but recommendations include some that Florida officials have spoken out against.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo have previously discouraged vaccination and wearing masks — particularly when it comes to COVID-19.

The new CDC guidance on preventing the spread of infections in K-12 schools, which is not specific to COVID-19, encourages schools to promote the safety and effectiveness of vaccines — and make them more accessible with vaccination clinics for students and employees.

The guidance also advocates for indoor mask-wearing as part of the response to a respiratory illness outbreak.

Jill Roberts, an infectious diseases professor at the University of South Florida, encourages Floridians to consider the source of their information, noting that medical organizations are in agreement about vaccination and mask-wearing.

“Am I going to pay attention to one person? Or am I going to pay attention to the summary of 1,700 articles? What is the World Health Organization saying? If you don't like them, what is CDC saying? If you don't like them, what is the Canadian Health Organization say? What's the NHS (National Health Service) in England say?

“And one of the things you'll find is that they're all saying the same thing: vaccinate, stay home when you're sick, wash your hands, wear masks. So this scientific community is basically in unity on the messaging.”

Roberts said the recommendations are based on "evidence-informed medicine,” noting that they referenced a lot of peer-reviewed literature.

“Almost 1,700 papers were actually included in their search and papers that really drill down specifically into schools and school-based researchers to say, 'OK, what worked. What didn't work? What should our guidance be moving forward?' And it's great guidance.”

She said the guidance was "soft" on when to return to work or school after an illness, noting that it should be tailored to specific pathogens, and that the CDC is shying away from some of the stronger, unpopular recommendations.

“We knew for years that if you had a spread of measles in a school, for example, one of the things you could do to stop it is ban all the kids that are unvaccinated for 21 days. Wildly unpopular today, right? But it works. It absolutely works. It stops the measles cold. Now alternately, we could just vaccinate all those kids. That would also stop that measles cold. But if there's a refusal to vaccinate, you've got to put your foot down. You have to put policy that's really, really strong.”

Roberts said she was pleasantly surprised by the CDC's inclusion of cleaner air recommendations, but acknowledged that most people and businesses are not going to commit to expensive HVAC overhauls.

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Daylina Miller is a multimedia reporter for WUSF and Health News Florida, covering health in the Tampa Bay area and across the state.