With school coming, Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health director suggests voluntary mask use for those under 12

MASON CITY — With the calendar soon turning to August, thoughts start to turn to the start of the school year and how COVID-19 is going to be handled heading into the fall.

Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health Director Brian Hanft says while parents can get their 12-17 year olds vaccinated, those under 12 can’t get it yet.  “If we look at those kids 12-17, we definitely want to get those kids vaccinated. That’s just one piece of keeping our schools up and going, and if our schools are up and going, then our parents are able to go to work. We do have that group of kids that are under 12 that right now we have no emergency use for vaccines for them. I do anticipate that will likely come, I just haven’t heard a lot of information lately that is going to happen anytime soon, and so those kids 11 and under can’t get vaccinated.”

Hanft says those 12 and under should be wearing masks when they go back to school until a vaccine is approved for that age group.  “It can’t be mandated obviously and that will create some challenges for schools, but that would be our message is that masks work. We know that the common cold, the flu, a lot of illnesses weren’t out there last year because people were wearing masks. We know that we’re going to have some new challenges this year that we didn’t have last year, but right now, kids under 12, there’s no information that I have that it’s going to be coming any time before school starts.”)

President Biden at a town hall meeting in Cincinnati last week was optimistic that a vaccine approved for children under the age of 12 could be available by next month, but that’s not a likely timeline. Trials for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for younger children started in March and results aren’t expected until later this fall.

Republicans in the Iowa Legislature at the end of the session in May passed a bill banning mask mandates in schools.

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