Traditionally, as we move toward August and September, around the United States, parents and children are preparing for back to school, excitedly waiting to find out who their teacher is, waiting to reconnect with friends they might not have seen over the summer break, looking forward to sharing their summer adventures with classmates.
School in the US in Fall 2020 is likely to look very different – if it happens at all in many areas. Schools are sending information to parents about masking and social distancing policies, most based on CDC recommendations that many parents and teachers view as unrealistic in a school environment and, in many instances, financially and physically impossible for schools to implement (such as ventilation changes and reworking of spaces in already limited classroom confines): https://bit.ly/39nWOaG
Schools are eliminating lunchrooms, recess, gym, athletics, field trips, visitors to the classroom, choir, and other activities. They are placing desks six feet apart, eliminating circle time for young learners, and putting plexiglass barriers between students. Many areas are considering only online learning or offering families an online option. In areas where schools are reopening, children may alternate days in class with days online to reduce the number of children in a classroom. How can our economy reopen when parents cannot consistently return to work under these schedules? Who pays for these alterations to schools?
Are these restrictions necessary – or even healthy? We need to ask: what are we doing to our children and at what risk to their social-emotional development?
Children are not Driving the Pandemic
Current science indicates that school-aged children do not readily spread COVID19 among themselves or to adults and that infections in children tend to be much milder than for adults. Here is one such study, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics: https://bit.ly/2OVreaS While supporting some social distancing measures, this commentary in Pediatrics also supports school reopening:https://bit.ly/2D13gZa
We don’t force masking during flu season and children are more susceptible to the flu than COVID19 – why mask a population unlikely to catch or spread COVID19? https://bit.ly/2P61r01
Schools are Reopening Safely Around the World
Importantly, children in many countries have safely returned to school without masks, and, in some instances, without strict social distancing as well: https://bit.ly/2OVg4CZ (discussing school reopenings without distancing) and https://bit.ly/3jBoGgm (discussing school-based transmissions)
Watch two clips of Dr. Scott Atlas, former chief of Neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center and currently the Robert Wesson Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and a member of its Working Group on Health Care Policy, explaining why schools can reopen safely without masks and strict distancing: https://bit.ly/39rESvZ and https://bit.ly/39okBaJ
The Hospital for Sick Children, a world-renowned pediatric facility, has recommended against mask-wearing and strict social distancing for schools re-opening. Their research and guidance is found here: https://bit.ly/3hv4b2Y
Some important quotes from The Hospital for Sick Children recommendations:
“Non-medical masks may reduce transmission from individuals who are shedding the virus. However, the extent of this benefit is unknown (especially in children) and would only be potentially beneficial if done properly. In fact, if worn incorrectly, it could lead to an increased risk of infection and it is not practical for a child to wear a mask properly for the duration of a school day. It is noteworthy that several European countries have had children successfully return to school without face masks.
Guidance statement(s): Non-medical and medical face masks are not required or recommended for children returning to school.” https://bit.ly/3hv4b2Y p. 5 (emphasis added)
“[S]trict physical distancing should not be emphasized to children in the school setting as it is not practical and could cause significant psychological harm. Close interaction, such as playing and socializing is central to child development and should not be discouraged.” https://bit.ly/3hv4b2Y p. 6 (emphasis added)
Would pediatricians send their own children back to school? Yes! In this NBC News interview, doctors’ enthusiasm for sending their own children back to school seemed to surprise the host. While the doctors recommend some distancing, better airflow in classrooms, and gym outside if possible, there was no recommendation of masking for elementary school children: https://nbcnews.to/2BrWBXw
Are Masks Safe for Children to Wear All Day?
The New England Journal of Medicine’s May 21, 2020, Perspective (https://bit.ly/2ORqzam) states, “We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little if any, protection from infection.”
Watch this important video of a father (investigative journalist Del Bigtree) and his 11-year old son, demonstrating how masks of various types far exceed OSHA safe levels for carbon dioxide after only a brief use: https://bit.ly/3hkg5g9 This would be an easy test for families and schools to replicate to determine the safety of mask-wearing for students. This video should give every parent pause. Are schools equipped to handle health crises from prolonged mask-wearing?
What is one state suggesting instead of addressing these concerns and the science showing masking is unnecessary? Scientifically unsupported increased mask-wearing at home! NJ is trying to convince parents to build up “mask tolerance” and social conditioning in favor of masks at home before school starts https://bit.ly/2OPADAO They even suggest bribing kids to wear masks and using fun prints to try to normalize this unnatural procedure.
We also wanted to share two important videos featuring Tammy Clark, director of StandUp Michigan, who has training in both the medical field and construction industries relevant to the use of equipment like masks, discussing mask risks, and facts. The first is a short 7-minute video https://bit.ly/2D2Ipos The second is longer but also excellent:
(https://bit.ly/3eXYBEz) In the latter, we recommend the first 5 minutes, where she explains her qualifications, minutes 27-35, which focus on children, and minutes 35-40, where she discusses that mask mandates are not about health and safety but about mitigating risks and reducing potential liability – and that we can do a better job of figuring out who needs to take which protective measures. While she does have a political viewpoint that might differ from yours, she has a great deal of valuable information to share!
Put aside the potential physical risks of prolonged mask-wearing in children . . . What psychological harms does it potentially cause – especially for our youngest learners and those with special needs? Masks create a physical distraction to students and prevent students and teachers from effectively communicating. How can therapists effectively treat children with special needs who need to see mouth movement and facial expressions?
For all students, masking and social distancing create fear of germs around us (i.e., the world is a scary place to be feared) and teach children that isolation and lack of contact are acceptable, rather than teaching the concepts of working together, making friends, playing together, and sharing. These laudable societal goals are forbidden or severely restricted by social distancing and masking. Children are taught that their friends and teachers are to be feared. Is that how we want our children to grow up?
In a June 2020 commentary in a leading Australian medical journal (https://bit.ly/3fZ5Jlk), researchers/practitioners from the University of Sydney noted that the U.S. masking recommendations are fear-driven (“the USA is in a desperate situation”) not science-based (because the evidence of protection is “scant”). They go on to recommend that medical professionals treating low risk patients not wear masks because it “may impede the normal caring relationship between patients, parents and staff.” Can’t the same be said of teachers and children?
Proper Mask Hygiene Is Not Easy – Most Adults are Failing at It – How Can We Expect Children to Do This All Day?
Finally, proper mask hygiene is not easy and most adults don’t do it correctly – increasing risks rather than lessening them: https://nyti.ms/2ZTT6m2 There are real concerns that children may do more harm than good in a school setting if they cannot properly use masks. See p. 5: https://bit.ly/3hv4b2Y
Teachers won’t have time to teach if they have to monitor children constantly to ensure that children don’t fiddle with/readjust their masks, that they don’t lower and raise masks to eat (instead of making sure children remove their masks completely and properly and replace them with a clean mask), that children don’t touch the front of the mask, that masks are properly fitted, that children wash/sanitize their hands before and after putting on or removing (or touching) a mask EVERY time, that masks are not reused, that disposable masks are safely disposed of and that cloth masks are sanitized at least daily? Who helps the child who sneezes or coughs, for whatever reason, into their mask in order to safely remove and replace that mask – and store the old one properly if it is a cloth mask? Who even pays for all these masks and trains teachers and staff?
Anthony Fauci – who has become the face of COVID 19 – makes all these mistakes with his mask. What this video and see everything you shouldn’t do with your mask: https://bit.ly/2WSmLdn
Here’s a final visual of a question every parent should be asking their child’s school:
Follow up action step:
If you want your child to attend a traditional public or private school without masking, share this information with your school/district leadership!