School mask standoff
Late Friday afternoon brought some big announcements about mask mandates from city, state, and national officials.
- First, the CDC declared that most areas of the U.S. (Cook County among them) can ditch mandates, including in schools.
- Then, Governor J.B. Pritzker officially dropped the state's school mask mandate.
- But CPS held firm, saying it would maintain "universal masking in schools," a declaration officials reiterated Sunday afternoon.
Why it matters: The move leaves CPS as one of the few districts in the state imposing a mandate, and now, without the backing of the CDC or governor.
Yes, but: CPS is also one of the few districts in the country where hundreds of schools have under 30% full vaccination rates.
- Other big-city school districts, including New York City and Los Angeles, are maintaining indoor mask mandates, while Evanston teachers are urging their superintendent to maintain masking.
State of play: CPS COVID-19 cases have recently fallen dramatically. Daily quarantine rates that were over 23,000 last month are down to just 979 as of yesterday; a.
What they're saying: "We do not want to jeopardize this progress by moving too quickly, which is why CPS will continue to require universal masking in schools for now," CPS CEO Pedro Martínez wrote Friday in a letter to parents.
- "That said, we all look forward to the day when masks are no longer necessary," Martínez said, adding that he'll work with the CTU to "determine the best way" forward.
💭 Our thought bubble: If CPS and the CTU agreed to lift mandates in schools with high vaccination rates — say, over 75% — it could help preserve safety while incentivizing more families to vaccinate their kids.
- Only 6% of CPS schools currently report vaccination rates over 75%, mostly on the north side.
- With half of CPS schools showing vaccination rates under 33%, the district would have a long way to go, but at least it would put specific metrics around a policy being applied uniformly at vastly different schools.
- But when Axios asked CPS and CTU officials about this idea, both said they are not considering it at this time.
Editor's note: The map for this story has been corrected to show the location for Burley Elementary is on the North Side, not the South Side.
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