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Chicago to require masks in schools this fall

July 23 (UPI) -- Chicago Public Schools announced that it will require face masks to be worn indoors of all of its facilities and for social distancing measures to be followed once classes resume at the end of August.

The announcement was made Thursday in a letter to parents and guardians of students who will be returning to in-person classes this fall.

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"Our goal is to keep all students healthy and safe while they learn in-person five days a week with their teachers and peers so they can receive the education and supports they need and deserve," CPS Interim Chief Executive Officer Jose Torres said in the letter.

Torres said the CPS' decision was based on the most current health guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as from the Chicago Department of Public Health.

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Concerning face masks, he said they will be mandated for all students, teachers, staff and visitors inside school buildings regardless of vaccination status, stating it "will help make sure those in our school communities who are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, which encompasses the majority of our students, remain as safe as possible."

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The safety plan also includes three feet of social distancing to be practiced where possible and for areas where it is not possible for additional measures to be introduced, such as air purifiers, hand sanitizer and stringent cleaning and disinfecting practices, among others, he said.

To ensure social distancing will be maintain during meals, students will be separated with some either eating in the school cafeteria or in their classrooms.

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"This strategy will allow for health measures to be in place even during unmasked times and will enable each school to schedule lunch periods based on what works best for their students and staff," Torres said.

The announcement was made days after the American Academy of Pediatrics said it recommends that all those two-years-old and older should wear masks, regardless of vaccination status.

"AAP recommends universal masking because a significant portion of the student population is not yet eligible for vaccines, and masking is proven to reduce transmission of the virus and to protect those who are not vaccinated," it said earlier this week. "Many schools will not have a system to monitor vaccine status of students, teachers and staff, and some communities overall have low vaccination uptake where the virus may be circulating more prominently."

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