Masks likely back in, remote learning out: Stamford schools prep for the fall amid changing guidance

STAMFORD — Earlier this month, it seemed masks would be optional for vaccinated students in schools this fall, but now it appears face coverings may be required for everyone when schools reopen.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed course Tuesday on some masking guidelines, recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging.

In Stamford, school administrators have not made many concrete decisions about the fall re-opening of schools with so many variables still undecided.

Earlier this month, when the CDC suggested that vaccinated students would not have to wear masks in schools, Superintendent Tamu Lucero suggested that such guidance could change.

“While it is good to have some updated guidance from the CDC, much can change between now and the first scheduled day of school,” she said, at the time. “We will continue to monitor the national, state and local health professionals’ recommendations and make a determination closer to the beginning of the school year.”

As of Friday last week, Lucero said no decisions had been made regarding mask wearing or fall sports.

Nonetheless, in that same communication, Lucero did state that Stamford would not offer a remote learning option for students in the fall. In her weekly email, Lucero wrote that guidance from the Connecticut State Department of Education led to the decision.

Previously, Lucero had mentioned the possibility of offering remote learning to unvaccinated children in the school system.

On Tuesday, school district spokesperson Sharon Beadle reiterated that no other decisions have been made about re-opening.

“No final plans have been established for the return to school (except for what has been communicated by the Connecticut State Department of Education regarding remote learning options),” she said, in an emailed statement.

Beadle said mask wearing would likely be a key topic at the next meeting of the health and safety subcommittee of the district’s reopening committee. The meeting was set for this week but had to be rescheduled.

Students in Stamford return to class on Aug. 30.

The CDC, citing new information about the ability of the delta variant to spread among vaccinated people, also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.

Most new infections in the U.S. continue to be among unvaccinated people. But “breakthrough” infections, which generally cause milder illness, can occur in vaccinated people. When earlier strains of the virus predominated, infected vaccinated people were found to have low levels of virus and were deemed unlikely to spread the virus much, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.

But with the delta variant, the level of virus in infected vaccinated people is “indistinguishable” from the level of virus in the noses and throats of unvaccinated people, Walensky said.

The data emerged over the last couple of days from 100 samples. It is unpublished, and the CDC has not released it. But “it is concerning enough that we feel like we have to act,” Walensky said.

Vaccinated people “have the potential to spread that virus to others,” she said.

This story includes reporting by The Associated Press.

ignacio.laguarda@stamfordadvocate.com