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Minnesota medical groups urge K-12 schools to adopt mask requirement for all

They say it will help protect other students who can't get vaccinated or are at risk.

A trio of medical organizations is urging Minnesota K-12 school districts to follow federal guidance and implement a mask mandate for the upcoming school year.

The Minnesota Medical Association, Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians, and Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics said Wednesday morning they "strongly support" the recent recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

The federal agency said last week that students, teachers, staff, and visitors in K-12 school buildings should wear a mask while indoors, regardless of vaccination status. State health and education officials made a matching recommendation the following day, saying the guidance is meant to help protect students other students.

Related: List of places in Minnesota now requiring or recommending face masks

The three medical groups, in their statement of support this week, cited those same concerns, writing a mask requirement will help safeguard "those who cannot yet be vaccinated or who remain at higher risk because of immune-compromised status or other conditions."

They are urging the state's school districts and leaders of private schools to "adopt requirements consistent with this informed public health guidance" while simultaneously encouraging everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated.

The new guidance from the CDC and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) comes amid growing concern over the delta variant of the virus, which appears to be as contagious as chickenpox and the common cold. Vaccines have proven to be immensely effective at preventing severe illness or death, even against the delta variant.

But state leaders have stopped short of instituting a mask mandate themselves, with Gov. Tim Walz noting he would have to declare a new statewide emergency to effect such a requirement, something he has conceded would be controversial.

Related: Rochester schools will require face masks for young learners

Education Commissioner Dr. Heather Mueller said last week each school district and school leaders will have the freedom to craft their own COVID policy for the upcoming school year, which could include a masking mandate for students, teachers and others. 

"But that will not be something that came from the Department of Health (MDH) or the Department of Education," Mueller said

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