How Effective Will Masks Be In Protecting Kids At School?
So, where are we?
Where do you stand on mask mandates? Good idea? Bad idea? Responsible act for the protection of the group or loss of individual freedom of choice?
Anti Mask Mandate Rally
The past Sunday 8/15/21 hundreds of Yakima area residents turned out for a honk-and-wave-type rally along south 40th Avenue at Chesterly Park, to among other messages, show pushback against mandatory masks for school kids. There seemed to be a lot of support.
On Sunday I also endure my weekly self-inflected head wound called "Watching Meet the Press" on NBC where the guest was Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH | Director | CIDRAP. CIDRAP is short for the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. He was a Biden COVID advisor for a time. He is supposed to be a guy who knows his stuff...supposedly.
Doctor Osterholm has been a frequent guest during the pandemic and on Sunday he said two things that really caught my attention as my wife and I were wrestling with the idea of sending Kate back to school in a mask. Kate had COVID last Thanksgiving with virtually no symptoms while I wound up in the hospital for three days. She has the antibodies - does she really need the mask?'
What Does the Science of Michael T. Osterholm, Ph.D., MPH Have to Say?
Osterholm said the Delta variant is significantly different than the coronavirus that triggered the worldwide pandemic and the children are more vulnerable now than the earlier statistics indicated. How much more vulnerable he didn't specify. So that's a concern. That starts to make a case for kids wearing masks to school, right? Well, he does support masks but he also supports nuance and telling the whole truth based on the science as he knows it and the truth is that masks may not be as effective as a lot of people are trying to make them out to be.
From The Medical Horses Mouth
I have included a couple of quotes from a blog he wrote for the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy clarifying his position on wearing masks.
- I support the wearing of cloth face coverings (masks) by the general public.
- Don't, however, use the wearing of cloth face coverings as an excuse to decrease other crucial, likely more effective, protective steps, like physical distancing.
"Public health messaging should include a more precise discussion of the effectiveness of cloth face coverings in preventing transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. We need to be clear that cloth face coverings are one tool we have to fight the pandemic, but they alone will not end it. e that physical distancing plays—even when you wear a face covering."
"Guidance from agencies such as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) makes it clear that the use of face coverings in the community should be considered only as a complementary measure to other preventive tools such as physical distancing. They recommend that face coverings should be used as part of a comprehensive strategy, but that the use of a face covering alone is not sufficient to provide an adequate level of protection against COVID-19."
And finally and perhaps most telling Osterholm wrote in June:
"[The general public] should be made aware that [cloth] masks may provide some benefit in reducing the risk of virus transmission, but at best it can only be anticipated to be limited. Distancing remains the most important risk reduction action they can take. ..."
So where are we?
IF Osterholm is right and keeping our distance is best, the 6-foot social distance once required, now makes more sense than the 3 feet of social distancing we abide by now.
IF Osterholm is right and the Delta variant is a greater risk to kids, maybe it's NOW when we should be homeschooling the kids, rather than as we did in 2020 and the first half of this year when the initial virus side-stepped kids for the most part.
And IF Osterholm is right, sending them to school with cloth masks, NOT N-95 masks will provide just minimal protection at best, especially since kids talking, playing, and tugging at their masks won't provide the proper continuous fit to limit leakage...and once outside, guidelines say they don't need masks at all!
PS. Seems like NONE of the mask-up recommenders ever address the social and educational problems of keeping kids in masks all day, every day.
So, where are we?