Amid a growing clamor to lift school mask mandates, the head of the country’s largest teachers’ union said on Tuesday that a rollback would depend on student vaccination rates.
Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” American Federation of Teachers boss Randi Weingarten was asked if she supports the governors who moved to end the requirements this week.
“At what point do we just say, ‘Okay, it’s time to get rid of the masks’?” host Willie Geist asked after showing Weingarten a copy of Tuesday’s New York Post front page on the issue. “Isn’t there already enough science available?”
As the governors of Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Delaware announced the end of school mask mandates, Weingarten remained circumspect.
“The real question becomes, how do we make sure people can prepare for it?” she asked. “And what are the measures for everyone to know – so that it doesn’t feel like it’s based on politics, it feels like it’s based on ensuring that it doesn’t there is no transmission at school?”
But citing a “rising” mental health crisis among children, panelist Dr Lucy McBride called for more urgency in eliminating mask requirements.
“We can’t wait any longer to think about lifting restrictions that cause more harm than good,” McBride said.
As she spoke, a graph showed rising rates of suicide attempts, eating disorders, depression and anxiety among children and teens.
“Here’s the plain truth,” she said. “There is no compelling real-world evidence that masking children in schools makes a significant difference to transmission in schools.”
When pressed by the growing list of states moving forward with mandate removal, Weingarten said she supported the specific approach taken by Massachusetts.
“I like what Massachusetts did because what they said was, school by school, they said if there were 80% vaccination rates, then schools could lift warrants,” Weingarten said.
The influential Labor figure also said she wanted more clarity from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before fully supporting a change in current masking policies – and said many parents still fear transmission of the virus. coronavirus in schools.
Governor Kathy Hochul has indicated she will extend masking requirements this month and suggested vaccination rates could impact any future policy changes.