MEMPHIS, Tenn. — From the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, health experts around the world and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention based in Atlanta have been studying the coronavirus and developing health recommendations based on the very latest data. Tuesday saw another update based on science and new information.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is changing course on some mask guidelines. The agency announced Tuesday that even vaccinated people should return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging. The recommendations cited new information about the ability of the delta variant to spread among vaccinated people. The CDC also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors at schools nationwide, regardless of vaccination status. In other developments, President Joe Biden said his administration is considering requiring all federal workers to get vaccinated. He dismissed concerns that the new masking guidance could invite confusion.
Meanwhile, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says a special session to revisit the state’s ban on mask mandates in schools is an option as the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state has surpassed 1,000. The governor met with legislative leaders Tuesday to discuss the possibility of a holding a session on the ban enacted in April that bans local and state government entities, including schools, from requiring the use of masks.Facing growing calls to lift the ban, at least for schools. Hutchinson says he is evaluating options for changes.
Also Tuesday, the White House is strongly considering requiring federal employees to show proof they’ve been vaccinated against the coronavirus, or otherwise submit to regular testing and wear a mask at all times regardless of the rate of transmission in their area. It's a potentially major shift in policy that comes as the White House has acknowledged growing concerns about the spread of the more infectious delta variant. The possible vaccine mandate for federal employees is one option under consideration by the Biden administration. The White House is expected to announce its final decision after completing a policy review later this week.
As the 2021-2022 school year approaches, many Memphis area schools have updated their COVID-19 protocols and procedures. So far, Shelby County Schools is the only Memphis area school district that will require students, faculty, and staff to wear masks, regardless of their vaccination status.
NOTE: The Associated Press heavily contributed to this article.