The Iowa Department of Education on Thursday discouraged K-12 grades from wearing facemasks when staff and students return to schools this fall. The Cedar Rapids Gazette reports that while acknowledging schools "may not be able to guarantee physical distancing can be met in all school settings" throughout the day, they do not recommend that districts require face coverings.

Covering the mouth is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For schools, the CDC has recommended masks when possible, especially when physical distancing is difficult. The information published yesterday is the department's final "high-level guidance" and is based on current public health conditions in the state of Iowa. New guidance will not be published unless public health conditions change.

School facilities have been closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Voluntary summer activities and some summer sports were allowed to resume this month. All school activities may resume on July 1st. The guidance was met with criticism on Thursday. Iowa State Educations Association President Mike Beranek, who represents Iowa's largest teachers union, said that he was deeply disappointed in the guidance. The Gazette reports that other officials expected the guidelines to line up with what school leaders were expecting. They also were hoping for more specifics when it came to face coverings and social distancing.

Local school districts can opt to require more than what the state outlined but would have to consult with public health officials and legal counsel before doing so.