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What are the rules on masks in schools?

Whether students have to wear masks, and the trouble they could face if they don't, depends on where they go to school.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages masks for most students, especially when they are less than 6 feet apart. The exceptions are children younger than 2 and those with breathing problems or who can't remove the mask without help.

But how states and districts interpret the guidance varies. Ohio mandates masks across the board in K-12 schools. Massachusetts requires masks for students in second grade and higher, and encourages them for younger children. South Carolina says students have to wear masks in the hallways, but can take them off in the classroom if a teacher allows it.

Rules vary outside the United States, too. In Germany, Berlin requires masks in hallways, but not during classroom instruction. In the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, masks are required in class as well. In the northern Italian town of Codogno that was hit hard by the virus, elementary and middle school students have to wear masks. They can be lowered during lessons, unless students can't maintain distance.

The issue has led to some contention. Back in the U.S., Utah’s school mask mandate has drawn protest from parents, as well as support from some students who say it's worth it to be able to attend school in-person. The state also allows for some of the strictest consequences. Students and staff who refuse to follow the rules could be charged with a misdemeanor.

In New York City, officials say students will simply be sent home and told to attend school remotely if they refuse to wear masks.

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The AP is answering your questions about the coronavirus in this series. Submit them at: FactCheck@AP.org.

Is it safe to reopen schools during the pandemic?

Is it safe to drink from a fountain during the pandemic?

Does wearing a mask pose any health risks?

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The 41 Breathable Face Masks To Shop Now

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Full screen 1/42 SLIDES © Vogue

Wearing face masks in public has now become routine. After months of acclimating to the new normal, procuring breathable face masks for summer’s hotter, more humid days feels pertinent now more than ever. Nobody wants to spend summer sweating under a mask, and it can get confusing to know which face coverings strike the right balance between breathability and safety. As it turns out, reaching for a too-thick mask in lieu of a more breathable option may be more harmful than helpful.

Dharushana Muthulingam, M.D., M.S., an infectious disease physician and public health researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, recommends cloth masks that find a happy medium between fabric density and comfortability for the summer months. “There is unfortunately an inverse relationship between protection and breathability,” Muthulingam tells Vogue. “Generally, you don’t want to see light between the fibers when you hold them up to the sun, but the mask should also be breathable, especially in warm months.” While studies have shown that tightly woven cotton fabrics, like quilter’s cotton, batik, and even tea towels are the best overall choices, they aren’t always the most comfortable fabrics when humidity and heat are added into the mix. “If the mask is uncomfortable, research has shown people just touch their face even more,” Muthulingam says. “Aim for compromise to get ‘good enough’ protection that also lets some amount of air in to make wearing the mask tolerable.” Lighter cottons, polyesters, or performance fabrics are acceptable and safe to use.

The shape of the mask is also an important consideration. Many runners prefer wearing balaclavas and bandanas that they can pull up or down when six feet away from other people. While cloth masks that mimic surgical masks with comfortable ear straps and a secure fit are preferred, Muthulingam says “the key is to eliminate gaps between your skin and the mask, however that is achieved. It has to cover your nose and go below your chin.”

With more and more options on the market, it is no surprise that people are investing in breathable masks for the summer. Here, 41 breathable masks in breathable fabrics like cotton, polyester blends, and other performance textiles that you can wear for all your outdoor activities and throw in with your laundry too.

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