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Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Parents in some parts of the U.S. are increasingly frustrated at their deadlocked school districts when it comes to masking policies and the few options for protecting unvaccinated kids this fall.

The big picture: The Biden administration's recent plea that people wear masks indoors again risks falling on deaf ears in the hardest-hit states, leaving families who are at odds with local policies in a quandary.

Driving the news: The Delta variant makes safe unmasking much harder, especially without an available vaccine for those 12 and under, according to a preprint study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health which had not yet been peer-reviewed.

  • "Mitigation measures or vaccinations for students when available can substantially reduce these risks," the authors write.

State of play: Pediatricians, public health experts, and even teachers are asking parents to send their child to school with a mask even if districts aren't mandating it.

  • "I know it’s really hard because they’re going to seem like they’re the odd person, but you’re looking at not only protecting the child but other individuals," said Tina Tan, professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine.
  • Children are much less likely than adults to get very ill or die from COVID-19, according to several experts and studies.
  • But there are still concerns children may transmit to more vulnerable populations. Severe illness does happen and has killed some children.

What's happening: About half of states are allowing decisions on masking to be made at the local level — in theory, a way to address the individual needs by the community.

  • This can be tricky when committees with few resources see parents organizing and protesting outside school board meetings, Keri Rodrigues, co-founder and president of the National Parents Union said.
  • In Broward County, Florida, a meeting had to be postponed about two dozen mask opponents waged screaming matches with school board members and burned masks outside the building.

Still, three states — Louisiana, Oregon and Nevada — changed their positions since the CDC released guidance last week that all students and staff in schools should wear masks.

  • However, a number of states, including Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Montana, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas have prevented local governments and school districts from requiring masks, according to AARP.

Go deeper

Oct 17, 2021 - Health

Fauci: J&J recipients will likely be able to mix and match boosters

Anthony Fauci. Photo: Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will likely allow recipients of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 to mix and match vaccine boosters depending on their individual health, NIAID director Anthony Fauci told ABC News' '"This Week" on Sunday.

Why it matters: The FDA's vaccine expert panel on Friday unanimously endorsed booster shots for adult recipients of the J&J vaccine. The panel is also exploring the mix and match strategy but hasn't yet taken a formal vote on the matter.

Oct 16, 2021 - Health

5 times as many police officers have died from COVID as from guns since pandemic began

Photo: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

COVID-19 is the leading cause of death for police officers even though members of law enforcement were among the first to be eligible to receive the vaccine, CNN reports, citing data from the Officer Down Memorial Page.

Why it matters: Nearly 476 police officers have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic started, compared to the 93 deaths as a result of gunfire in the same time period, according to ODMP and CNN.

Oct 16, 2021 - Health

Pope Francis calls on companies to release COVID vaccine patents

Pope Francis. Photo: Massimo Valicchia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Pope Francis called on pharmaceutical companies on Saturday to release patents to make COVID-19 vaccines more accessible to the poor, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: There is a stark divide between countries that have access to COVID-19 shots and those that don't, and the gap has widened as some wealthier countries have begun distributing third doses.