Guest commentary: Masks need to stay on in schools, Board of Health members urge
After the last school year plagued by quarantines and missed work by working families, the Pitkin County Board of Health’s goal is to keep kids in school. The highly contagious delta variant has changed everything.
It affects children more than any other variant of COVID-19. As delta swept through the UK, children were infected at five times the rate of those 65 and older. Most of the pediatric cases in the United States have been mild, but not every case.
We are seeing more children hospitalized for COVID in the United States than ever before. A mildly symptomatic child can infect an adult leading to a more serious infection. Even vaccinated adults can be infected with delta. While vaccination is our best tool to control delta, masks are a close second and the only option for those 12 and younger.
We know that masks work and keep kids safe and in school. Children wore them last year and transmission rates in schools were low. Masking in schools is supported by the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Federation of Teachers. Masks keep kids in school by decreasing transmission — leading to fewer kids needing to quarantine at home.
Masked children exposed to a COVID-19 positive child wearing a mask will not have to quarantine.
The experiment of not masking in schools in the southeastern United States has resulted in a rash of infection and quarantines during the first week of instruction. Quarantines exact severe economic and emotional tolls on working parents, who must scramble to secure childcare or make last minute arrangements with their workplace so they can stay at home with kids.
This past year has taught us that kids need to be in school, where they learn best and are happiest. In general kids don’t mind wearing masks and are excited to interact in person with their masked peers. The alternative of staying at home learning remotely has resulted in a silent pandemic of isolation, depression, anxiety and screen addiction. We understand that it is not ideal to teach with masks on. However, it is much more difficult to teach and make connections with children via zoom or google classrooms.
The pandemic is not yet over, and everyone is exhausted. We can all take off masks when we can keep our children safe and in school. Until then, the masks need to stay on.
This is not an official letter from the Board of Health, but has been endorsed by these members individually: Dr. Jeannie Seybold; Dr. Christa Gieszl; Dr. Tom Kurt; Dr. Kimberly Levin; Linda Vieira; Ann Mullins; Markey Butler; and Greg Poschman.
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