As COVID-19 infections in children surge, CDC head urges schools to push masks, vaccinations

With COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in children and teens rising, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky urged schools districts across the country to double up their safety precautions and follow her agency's 

"We know how to protect schools," Walensky says.  "We have the tools."

Dr. Walensky encouraged schools to adopt a multi-layered approach to keeping students safe in the classroom.

Among the agencies recommendations, schools are encouraged to:

  • Vaccinate everyone eligible, including teachers, staff, and students ae 12 and up
  • Require students, teachers, staff, and visitors to wear a face mask, regardless of their vaccination status
  • Update the school's ventilation systems
  • Cohort, or keep classes together during the school day
  • Encourage students and staff to physically distance
  • Institute routine COVID-19 testing for students and staff

"Schools should implement as many of these prevention strategies as possible, simultaneously," Dr. Walensky says.  "These sever to protect our children even if there are inevitable breaches in any single protective layer." 

This week, the agency released tools to help schools launch COVID-19 testing programs.

"Unfortunately, many schools have opted not to implement these recommended tools," Dr. Walensky says.

The Atlanta-based health agency is facing questions about whether the school guidelines should be updated, now that the hyper-transmissible delta variant has pushed the US into a fourth wave of the pandemic.

Walensky says her agency's investigations have found most of the large-scale outbreaks are occurring in schools that are not following the agency's guidelines, particularly the recommendations to vaccinate students age 12 and up and require everyone to wear a mask.

"I want to reach out to those school districts who have not implemented our strategies and encourage them to do the right thing and protect the children under their care," she says.

For now, Dr. Walensky says, there is no plan to change or update her agency's school COVID-19 safety guidelines.

WATCH: FOX 5 Atlanta live news coverage


Sign up for FOX 5 email alerts

Download the FOX 5 Atlanta app for breaking news and weather alerts.