FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – Parents who are vaccinated but cannot get the shot for their children aged 11 and under worry about the new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control — and some expressed concern about Colorado’s mask mandate ending too early. Experts at Children’s Hospital say previous recommendations for masks and social distancing should still be followed when around unvaccinated children.

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“I think it’s great that we have so many people vaccinated and we can move away from masks,” said Sunshine Swetnam, a mother of two students in elementary school who are not yet eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. “I really worry about the social norm and the fact that [children aged] zero to 11 have no vaccinations yet.”

Not only is she concerned about their safety, but she worries about what message adults are sending children when they start to take off masks. For the past year, she has kept her students at home and followed all necessary guidelines. Their extended family has some high-risk members so she wanted to take extra precautions.

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“So then all the adults are like ‘Woohoo, I get my masks off! And sorry kids, you still have to wear yours, but I don’t have to wear mine,'” she explained about the possible confusion. “When we do have to go out, to the grocery store, the doctor’s office, wherever we’re going, we always wear a mask.”

Staff at Children’s Hospital explain that anyone under 12 is still susceptible to COVID-19 and spreading the virus. They say CDC guidelines for children two and older about wearing face coverings should still be followed. The hospital recommends thinking of this age group as any other unvaccinated and vulnerable population — therefore mask wearing and social distancing are still important for those families, even if parents are vaccinated.

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“We’ve been trying to get out into nature as much as possible,” Swetnam told CBS4 at the park with her children on Friday. They have gone on bike rides, hikes, and even explored the mountains to enjoy fresh air while staying safe during the pandemic. “They see us do it, they do it, they started to assimilate in their brains why that’s important and why we all need to wear masks to keep ourselves safe.”

She encourages state and national leaders to share the considerations they’ve taken into account for children under 12 to help people understand the new guidance and keep everyone healthy.

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“I want all of us to feel safe including the youngest of us and somebody has to advocate for them,” Swetnam said.

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Shawn Chitnis