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White House keeps encouraging masks in schools as some states move toward lifting mandates

CNN logo CNN 2/7/2022 By Betsy Klein, CNN
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 18: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House on October 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. Psaki announced that President Biden will hold separate meetings with moderate and progressive House members as part of negotiations for the bipartisan infrastructure bill. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images) © Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 18: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House on October 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. Psaki announced that President Biden will hold separate meetings with moderate and progressive House members as part of negotiations for the bipartisan infrastructure bill. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

The White House maintained its adherence to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance encouraging mask usage in schools Monday as some states take steps toward lifting mask mandates in the classroom.

The CDC recommends that those who are vaccinated should "wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission."

School masking continues to be a politically divisive topic as the pandemic enters its third year, with rising vaccinations and cases falling in recent weeks. As CNN reported earlier Monday, New Jersey's universal mask mandate for all schools and child care settings will be lifted on March 7, Gov. Phil Murphy, a Biden ally, announced during a news conference. Delaware Gov. John Carney announced that the state's universal indoor mask mandate will end on Friday and that school mask mandates will expire March 31.

New Jersey and Delaware are still areas of high transmission, per the CDC, and the White House continues to recommend masks in its schools, though White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated that implementation was up to school districts.


Video: Doctor supports some states lifting mask mandates in schools. Here's why (CNN)

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"Our advice to every school district is to abide by public health guidelines. It continues to be at this point that the CDC is advising that masks can delay, reduce transmission. There are also a number of other mitigation measures that we put in place, but that continues to be CDC guidance," Psaki said.

She added, "It's always been up to school districts. That's always been our point of view and always been our policy from here. And our policy from the federal government is to continue to advise everybody to abide by public health guidelines."

Pressed by CNN's MJ Lee on whether the administration would consider clarifying its guidance on masking in schools in the future, Psaki made clear that the White House still recommends masks in schools.

"The guidance is very clear, which is that we recommend masking in schools. That is the recommendation from the CDC. It is also true that at some point when the science and the data warrants, of course, our hope is that that's no longer the recommendation, and they are continually assessing that. But the guidance is very clear. It is also true that has always been up to local school districts to make determinations about how to implement these policies," she said.

As he announced the end of the mandate one month from Monday, Murphy said the decision to remove it came "because of the dramatic decline in our Covid numbers," increased vaccination and the "decreased severity of this new variant." He called the move "a huge step back to normalcy for our kids."

Psaki said the administration would continue to follow data and science before any changes to policy would be made.

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