TAMPA, Fla. — Students will be headed back to school in a couple of weeks, and depending on where they live, they may be required to wear masks.  

There is a deepening divide between health officials and state leaders over masks in schools. Nine states so far have laws prohibiting school districts from requiring them.

What You Need To Know

  • Masks are optional for Bay area school districts

  • AAP says masks are important to keep students, staff safe whether they are vaccinated or not

  • More than 23,000 new cases from July 8-15 were children, according to AAP

  • CDC says if you are fully vaccinated you don't need to wear a mask

In Florida, it is up to each school district to decide whether masks will be required. 

In the Tampa Bay area, all districts have made them optional for this coming school year. 

"We all want our kids back in school. We want them learning. We want them safe,” said Dr. Lee Beers, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

The AAP gave new recommendations this week for masks, saying the best way to keep students safe is by wearing them at school, both students and staff, regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated. 

Only 57% of people ages 12 and older are fully vaccinated, and there’s been a spike recently in the number of new COVID-19 cases. 

According to the AAP, there have been more than 23,000 new cases from July 8 - 15 that were children, which is nearly double what was being reported at the end of June, and doctors say that’s why masks in schools are so important.

"This is the way to help keep everyone safe, to protect everyone in our community, and especially right now, those children under 12 who don't have access to this safe effective vaccine. We have seen children get quite ill both in the immediate phase, in the hospital, and in the long-term,” said Dr. Beers.

The CDC’s recommendation contradicts the AAP’s. It says if students and staff are fully vaccinated, then they do not need to wear a mask at school. 

Local school districts have not announced any plans to reconsider mask mandates for the next school year.