LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — When students return to the classroom this fall, they should all wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, according to new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Everyone over the age of 2 should wear masks so children can return to classrooms for in-person learning, the group said in updated guidance issued this week.

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Senior students Samantha Ashworth, left, and Sarah Attia talk to their mothers on their phone as they return to campus for in-person instruction at St. Anthony Catholic High School in Long Beach March 24, 2021. (Photo by Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images).

“We need to prioritize getting children back into schools alongside their friends and their teachers – and we all play a role in making sure it happens safely,” Dr. Sonja O’Leary, chair of the AAP Council on School Health, said in a statement. “The pandemic has taken a heartbreaking toll on children, and it’s not just their education that has suffered but their mental, emotional and physical health.”

Universal masking is recommended for students returning to campuses because while children 12 and older can be vaccinated, those younger than 12 are not yet eligible. In the absence of more widespread vaccinations among children, masking has proven to reduce transmission of the virus and protect those who are not yet vaccinated, according to the AAP.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci said the recommendation is in line with Los Angeles County’s recent move to reimpose a mask mandate for people when indoors. Public health officials say the recent surge of COVID-19 is due in part to unvaccinated people shedding their masks when the state’s mask mandate expired, despite being advised to continue protecting themselves.

“I think that’s along the same lines as what we’ve seen with the health authorities in Los Angeles, which in the general population, has said the same thing – when you have a degree of viral dynamics in the community and you have a substantial proportion of the population that is unvaccinated, that you really want to go the extra step, the extra mile,” he said.

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In California, state officials already announced it will require all students in schools to wear face masks but are leaving enforcement to individual school districts.