The state Department of Health’s COVID-19 updated guidance for reopening schools recommends that all teachers and students wear masks to school this year regardless of their vaccination status.
The department’s new guidelines, which were updated today, allow for a full in-person reopening of school campuses in an acknowledgement of the toll that online learning took on many students last year.
Acting state Epidemiologist Sarah Kemble said the guidance emphasizes the promoting of vaccinations for students and staff, COVID-19 screening, keeping students 3 feet apart where possible and increased ventilation of classrooms.
Currently, vaccinations are only authorized for children age 12 and older.
The mask guidance calls for all students, teachers and staff to wear masks indoors, as well as in crowded situations outside.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July issued guidance that said masks are needed indoors only by individuals who are not fully vaccinated.
The Health Department’s guidance says, “As we have learned more about COVID-19 and schools, it has become apparent that schools are not, as initially anticipated, amplifiers of COVID-19 transmission. Although COVID-19 clusters have occurred in school settings, multiple studies have shown that transmission rates within school settings are typically lower than or similar to community transmission levels when multiple layered prevention strategies are in place.”
Health officials said schools should consider screening testing for all teachers and staff who have not been fully vaccinated regardless of the level of community transmission.
The guidance also includes screening testing for those who are not fully vaccinated to facilitate participation in sports and other activities with a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Hawaii’s public school students return to classes Aug. 3.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.