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Chicago Pediatricians Urge Parents To Get Kids 12 And Up Vaccinated, Recommend Masks

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Back-to-school is just around the corner, and with COVID cases surging, there are questions about safety.

CBS 2's Mugo Odigwe reports pediatric experts with Chicagoland Children's Health Alliance urged parents and school leaders to follow the science, and take precautions by getting eligible kids vaccinated and having all students and teachers mask up at school.

There's still so much confusion and anger about masking requirements for the upcoming school year.

According to published reports, Gov. JB Pritzker will issue a mask mandate for students and staff in preschool through 12th grade, in both public and private schools in Illinois.

Chicago Public Schools already was requiring masks for students and staff for the upcoming school year, but it's been a contentious issue for many school districts.

Some parents want all students to be required to wear masks at schools, especially because children under 12 aren't eligible for the COVID-19, but other parents are completely against mask mandates, demanding schools leave the masking decision up to them.

The topic is so polarizing, that many school board meetings have been packed, amid loud debate over masking rules.

Health experts have said kids should mask up at school.

Just last month, the CDC recommended everyone from teachers to students in grades K through 12 should mask up at schools, regardless of their vaccination status.

Pediatric experts with Chicagoland Children's Health Alliance said, .if your child is 12 or older, get them vaccinated, because it's the best way to protect them from COVID. They noted only 25% of kids eligible for the shot are actually vaccinated, and until that group is protected, they said it will be much more difficult to protect younger kids who can't get the shot yet.

"We're in the middle of another surge, with the delta variant now coming through Chicago. We've had an 84 percent increase across the country in COVID infections in children and teens in the last week. So we think it's safest to start off the school year with the mask, and then we'll reassess in the next few months," said Dr. Frank Belmonte, chief medical officer at Advocate Children's Hospital.

Gov. Pritzker has scheduled a 2:30 p.m. update on COVID, when he'll reportedly announce the new mask mandate for Illinois schools.

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