COOK COUNTY, Ill. - The latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control recommends universal masking in schools and the Cook County Health Department agrees.
"Nobody is exempt," said Dr. Rachel Rubin. "Children, adults, guests to schools, unless there's a medical reason that they cannot wear a mask. in which case other mitigation strategies should be in place."
The Illinois Federation of Teachers is also on board with the new guidance.
"We want schools to be open and we want schools to remain open in person, like a regular school year as much as we can have it," said Dan Montgomery, President of the Illinois Federation of Teachers.
To achieve that – and not have to resort to virtual learning – Montgomery said universal masking in schools is "the prudent thing to do," especially because kids under 12 aren't eligible for the vaccine yet.
"We know teachers and school staff are vaccinated in high numbers, but kids really still aren't yet," he said.
With the Delta Variant reportedly driving some 57,000 new COVID-19 cases per day, Montgomery says local school boards who have voted for "optional" masks should reconsider.
"A number of them are reconsidering and that's the right thing to do," he said. "Our members, our locals around the state are talking to those school boards and saying, 'Look, no one wants to go back to last year.'"
Cook County Health announced Wednesday that it's in "lock-step" with CDC guidance, saying universal masking should be in effect throughout suburban Cook County, grades K through 12.