As the opening of schools draws near, we realize ASHA members have questions about masking guidelines and which of the various sources of guidance to draw from. While masking guidance can and does change periodically, depending on the latest epidemiological data on the virus and its variants, ASHA encourages its members to first refer to ASHA’s own guidance, which places a priority first and foremost, on health and safety. Updated regularly, ASHA guidance at this time defers to masking recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and to members’ state and local public health officials’ guidance.
The CDC as of July 27th now recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K–12 schools, regardless of vaccination status, putting their guidance on parity with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ universal masking mandate. ASHA guidance also provides a host of resources for members seeking to make students’ learning in a masked environment as effective as possible, including the use of clear masks, amplification of teacher voices, video, and more. While there is no definitive research indicating that masks interfere with speech or language development, these resources assist members in optimizing the learning environment to provide the best possible speech and language outcomes. Finally, if COVID-19 infections continue to escalate, there is increased risk that schools could be closed again. If wearing masks can help prevent school closures again, and keep children inside classrooms, ASHA considers that preferable to a return to an in-home, all-remote learning scenario.