Children should wear masks in Licking County schools


On August 9, the Granville School Board met to review the mask guidelines for the upcoming school year. As a physician deeply invested in the health of our community, with a family member attending Granville High School, I listened to the discussion with concern.

While the council’s proposal gives parents the flexibility to decide whether or not their children will wear masks in school, Superintendent Jeff Brown has made it clear that masking and distancing works to stop transmissions in classrooms in the Granville School District in the 2020/2021 school year. The choice parents must make for the health of their children is clear: children must continue to mask themselves.

Following:COVID and Schools: Masks will be optional for Licking County students this fall

COVID is bad – not a sniffle and itchy throat, but over 600,000 deaths in the United States are bad. We should all be able to agree on this. No one is at fault; nobody wants it; we all wish it was gone. Like most, I was really excited to take my mask off in public when the data showed that those vaccinated were not getting sick and were unlikely to spread COVID.

With the Delta variant, everything has changed. Science does not turn around, but it does evolve as we collect data on this evolving disease. Viruses mutate, which can drastically change their ability to infect and cause disease. Thus, we cannot make decisions on how to prevent the spread of the COVID Delta variant based on outdated pre-Delta information. COVID is now 60% more transmissible, more virulent and possibly more dangerous to children than it was last year. Children’s hospitals across the country are currently experiencing an increase in COVID admissions.

The masks work to slow the spread of the disease; we should all be able to agree on that. They don’t block all aerosolized viruses, but most virus particles are transmitted to respiratory droplets, which are blocked by masks. We can also agree that masks are no fun. Using them requires effort: fabric masks should be washed every day; they can cause headaches or decrease our ability to hear and understand.

But for the health of our children and our community, we need to unite, mask ourselves, overcome complications, and work for the public good. There are many styles of masks for those who are sensitive to their wearing. Transparent masks are suitable for those who need to read lips. The very few people who cannot wear them for legitimate health reasons can be accommodated. But the rest of us, the vast majority, can revert to wearing masks. One of the most important things we can do right now for the health of our children is to keep them in school, and the best way to keep children in school is to keep COVID out of it. school.

As a primary care physician who has worked for decades in Haiti, where life-threatening infectious diseases are part of everyday life, I consider myself able to read scientific studies and come to logical conclusions. But because I am not an epidemiologist or an infectious disease specialist, I rely on groups of experts who come together to give their consensual opinion and, as the virus evolves, to revise that consensus opinion as it develops. new data becomes available. The rapid spread of the Delta variant is taking us into new territory, with a lot of unknowns.

Currently, the CDC, the Infectious Disease Society of America, and the American Academy of Pediatricians recommend universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of age. immunization status, until vaccines are licensed and widely available for all children and immunization rates are sufficient to control transmission. Hopefully before the end of the school year, children under 12 can receive the vaccine and the Delta virus will be controlled enough to make masks unnecessary. But we are not there yet. Right now, the best way to beat COVID is for everyone who qualifies to get vaccinated and for everyone to wear masks in indoor public spaces.

Tracee Laing, MD, is the founding director of Healing Art Missions, Granville, Ohio and Haiti, and a volunteer physician at the Community Health Clinic, Newark, Ohio.

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