September 21, 2021

IDPH: School districts not following CDC mask guidance should consult insurance companies

“Insurers may be unwilling to cover liabilities created as a result of failure to adhere to public health guidance,” IDPH warns

While school districts across northern Illinois are largely opting to make masks optional at all grade levels, the Illinois Department of Public Health issued an updated FAQ that included a statement to any districts that choose to not follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mask guidance.

“In addition to the health and safety reasons for following the CDC’s guidance, school districts that decide not to follow the CDC’s guidance should consult with their insurers regarding risk assumption and liability coverage. Insurers may be unwilling to cover liabilities created as a result of failure to adhere to public health guidance,” the IDPH said in the statement.

Masks are not mandated for the upcoming school year. However, the CDC strongly recommends that masks should be worn by all individuals age 2 and older who are not fully vaccinated when indoors and when in crowded outdoor settings or during activities that involve sustained close contact with other people who are not fully vaccinated.

On July 9, the CDC, IDPH and Illinois State Board of Education issued updated COVID-19 guidance for the coming academic year that urged school districts to look to local data from health officials since vaccination and viral positivity rates vary so widely by state and county.

Per CDC requirements, masks are required on school buses and must be worn at all times during transportation. Schools may opt to make masks universally required, regardless of vaccination status.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending all students, teachers and staff wear masks inside schools when classes resume to protect unvaccinated children from COVID-19 and reduce transmissions. Children age 11 and younger are not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.

School board meetings across the state have been packed throughout July with parents expressing their views on mask requirements in schools. An oft-cited research paper that appeared in the Journal of American Medicine that claimed face masks are harmful and raise carbon dioxide levels for children has since been retracted by the journal, “given fundamental concerns about the study methodology, uncertainty regarding the validity of the findings and conclusions.”

The full FAQ can be viewed here.