Head Start school programs require COVID masks for children, contrary to CDC guidance

Head Start expressed "significant frustration and disappointment" with the current rule.

Updated: September 7, 2022 - 11:37am

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Head Start, the federal program providing preschool and child care for low-income families, will require COVID-19 masks  for children 2 and older this school year, which is inconsistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

The Head Start requirements were instituted last November by the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the school readiness program. They requires staff members to be vaccinated, in addition to the mask requirement.

The mandate is not in effect in 25 states following lawsuits late last year.

The federal government recommended last month for schools and child care centers to implement mask requirements when COVID is at a high transmission level. Masks are optional in most schools and daycare facilities.

After the CDC issued its new guidance, National Head Start Association Executive Director Yasmina Vinci wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, expressing "significant frustration and disappointment that a final rule, or any additional guidance, has not been released yet."

Health and Human Services, which oversees Head Start, acknowledged that the rule contradicts current recommendations but said that updating the rule is a "lengthy process" and Head Start centers are not being checked for masking compliance, The New York Times reported.

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