The CDC and the federal and state governments have had a huge political disconnect with public schools since the start of the pandemic. States have the authority to make the rules concerning Covid-19, leaving the teaching profession scarred, and Americans are angry with public schools. Masking in schools has always been controversial.
Now, as more individuals become vaccinated, there’s confusing messaging and rule enforcement. There’s still a lack of understanding about how schools work; the problems teachers face in old buildings with lousy ventilation and difficulties with social distancing, have been destructive and dangerous.
Once again, Americans get mixed messages. Most schools will open in the fall, but we are told the Delta variant is surging and is dangerous to unvaccinated children.
The CDC provides good recommendations, but the issue of wearing masks is for others to make.
Localities should monitor community transmission, vaccination coverage, screening testing, and occurrence of outbreaks to guide decisions on the level of layered prevention strategies (e.g., physical distancing, screening testing).
The reports surrounding their recommendations for schools are often weakly interpreted, especially by those who don’t take the virus seriously.
The agency’s guidance is not a mandate. School districts and local governments have the authority to make their own decisions, including whether to implement universal mask-wearing or ditch the masks completely, even for unvaccinated students. Local officials will also be able to determine whether to require proof of vaccination for students old enough and if so, how to accomplish that.
States that have not made masks required in schools are Vermont, South Carolina, Iowa, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, Utah, Florida, and Montana.
Ten states require masks in school: California, New Mexico, Washington, Illinois, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Virginia, Hawaii, and North Carolina, and Michigan and West Virginia want unvaccinated students to wear them.
The Delta variant.
Children rely on adults to protect them. There has always been concern over the long-term effects of Covid-19 on children, the dangers of that virus, and now there are increasing concerns about the Delta variant.
According to NBC:
As of July 8, more than 4 million children had been diagnosed with Covid-19, representing 14.2 percent of all cases, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. More than 31,000 new cases were reported in the week of June 24 to July 8, the association reported.
At least 335 children, ages 17 and younger, have died from Covid-19, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although serious complications in kids remain extremely rare. But increasing cases among children, including severe ones, are expected as the delta variant spreads and with no Covid vaccine authorized for children under the age of 12.
Even FOX News reported that the Delta variant is problematic for children, posing a more serious risk to unvaccinated people, including kids. They quoted the doctors.
. . .the most pronounced increases last week were among children younger than 12 years of age. They had a 52% increase in the number of daily cases, whereas we had a 35% increase overall. That uptick is reflecting in Tampa Bay’s hospitals. Doctors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital said children are coming in with COVID-19.
On Twitter, Cleavon MD shares heartbreaking stories of children who have been ill from Covid and those who have succumbed to the disease.
Her father was an anti-masker, believed COVID was just the flu & kids didn't get sick, until his 7 y.o. daughter Grace suffered heart damage & meningitis from #MISC. She survived, but doctors remain concerned about her swollen heart #TheySurvivedCovid https://t.co/CEiRNcMNXS pic.twitter.com/bA0IyiQ1LB
— Cleavon MD (@Cleavon_MD) July 1, 2021
Masks are mandatory in airports, on airplanes, and in doctors’ offices.
States should follow the lead of administrators of airports, airlines, and doctors’ offices.
Rules should also be standardized in public schools where the youngest children could now be the most vulnerable. A vaccine for them is not expected until midwinter.
For the record, JAMA Pediatrics has retracted a paper claiming that children’s masks trap too-high concentrations of carbon dioxide a little more than two weeks after publishing it.
Americans should care about protecting students.
I appreciated Dr. Greg Kelly’s tweet.
As a pediatrician I'm going on record saying that allowing kids to be freely infected with a novel disease that has unknown long term consequences is the worst idea of 2021 despite being a pretty crowded field so far#COVID19
— Dr Greg Kelly (@drgregkelly) July 2, 2021
Until the virus and its variants are under control, masks should be the norm in schools. Everyone should wear masks. Unless school districts can show that the Delta variant or Covid-19 or any other variant is not a threat to children, those in a school setting should wear masks.
Classrooms should also be equipped with HEPA filters which have been shown to help with poor ventilation.
If Americans want their public schools to open, states and local school districts must work to make them as safe as possible from this virus for all students.
Important Note: After posting this, the American Academy of Pediatrics stated that all children over two should wear masks in school even if vaccinated.