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Western New York medical experts and school leaders react to change in CDC guidance

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Posted at 9:07 PM, Jul 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-27 23:09:42-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The CDC said everyone in K-12 schools should wear masks, regardless of their vaccination status. Some Western New York pediatricians said it's about time that recommendation was made.

"I think it's great. Honestly, I think the CDC caught up to what we were saying," Dr. Dennis Kuo, the medical director for Buffalo Public Schools, said.

"The American Academy of Pediatrics took a stand and said it outright that we should be more aggressive in maintaining masking indoors. We were waiting for the CDC to change their mind and catch up," Dr. Karl Yu, a pediatric epidemiologist at the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine, said.

The CDC also said everyone in K-12 schools should wear regardless of their vaccination status.

"If we know what the rules of engagement are for September, it's better to know that now. If we have to wear masks, and are able to also as the CDC recommended, come back to school 5-days a week every day, I think it's a small short price to pay to get kids back to school," Niagara Falls Central School District Superintendent Mark Laurie said.

Doctors said it's crucial students return to the classroom in the fall.

"There is a psychological impact as well as a societal impact for children not being allowed to go to school full time," Dr. Yu said.

"There's the attention that kids can get. There's the exercise. There's nutritional. There's the mental health services that many of our kids get," Dr. Kuo said.

But the lack of COVID cases in summer school programs, where students could learn with the option of wearing a mask, has school leaders questioning if the mask mandate is needed in New York state.

Laurrie said there have been no COVID cases correlated to summer school in the district.

"If summer school is any indication, we are doing very well with strongly recommended. 9 out of ten kids continue to wear a mask and it's gone very very well," Laurrie said.

Superintendent Michael Cornell said the Hamburg Central School District has had no COVID cases connected to summer school as well.

"Right now, our kids are in school without masks and physical distancing requirements. We haven't had an outbreak as a result. That's what the state guidance allows. If the state changes it's guidance, then we'll do what we've always done. We'll adapt and make sure every child has a great learning experience every day. That obligation, regardless of state guidance, never changes,"

Governor Cuomo said the state is reviewing the updated CDC guidance.