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US CDC stands by K-12 school masking guidance as states relax rules

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stands by its mask-wearing guidance for public K-12 schools with COVID-19 cases still high nationwide, even as some states plan to relax masking rules, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told Reuters on Tuesday.

Officials in New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, California and Oregon said on Monday they plan to lift indoor mask mandates for schools and other public places in coming weeks, seeking a return to “normalcy” as infections spurred by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus ebb.

“Right now our CDC guidance has not changed ... We continue to endorse universal masking in schools,” Walenksy said in an interview.

Walensky said she is “cautiously optimistic” COVID-19 cases in the United States will fall below crisis levels at some point, but "we are not there right now."

Despite declines in infections from recent record highs, Walensky noted that the United States is currently seeing around 290,000 COVID-19 cases each day and higher rates of hospitalization than it did during the peak of cases caused by the Delta variant in 2021.

Hospital capacity is “one of the most important barometers” for whether COVID-19 should be considered a pandemic-level public health crisis, she said. Right now, U.S. hospitals remain “overwhelmed” by COVID-19 cases. -- Reuters