Reviews | When will children’s masks be removed from school?


At this point, only about a third of parents say they will get their children ages 5 to 11 vaccinated as soon as possible, with about a third saying they will wait to see, and a third saying they won’t. , or will only vaccinate if mandatory, according to September figures from the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Covid-19 Vaccine Monitor. As a commentator on a Times Opinion guest essay put it, “Literally, the only thing that motivates me to get my child vaccinated is to remove the mask warrants.”

First of all, we should talk about the points where there is broad agreement among experts: Every person I have spoken to said that children aged 5 and over should be vaccinated. The other important point of agreement was that masks can be useful tools in our Covid prevention kit, as well as measures such as proper ventilation and widely available rapid tests.

Of those 11 experts, two felt it was too early to start talking about removing masks. “We will need to see the level of immunization in children to have a more informed conversation about masking in youth groups and organizations,” said Nia Heard-Garris, assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University and pediatrician at Lurie. Chicago Children’s Hospital.

Of the other nine, there was a range of responses, which I will place in two main buckets.

Monica Gandhi, professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco and associate head of its division of infectious diseases, said in an email that with the authorization of vaccines for children aged 5 to 11, ” it makes more sense for me to lift the mask warrants in schools (and for adults) once children have a chance to receive both doses of the vaccine ”- which, in an ideal world, probably means around eight. Weeks after vaccines became widely available Gandhi said, “I strongly believe in motivation and positive messages and I believe making this metric explicit will convince more parents to vaccinate their children.”

Marr, the engineering professor, tweeted that two weeks after resuming school in January should be the earliest date considered, as children can catch the usual non-Covid bugs during the holidays. Her too noted that she liked the idea of ​​data-driven mask policies based on the level of spread of the virus in communities. Some experts, like Aaron Carroll, professor of pediatrics and director of health at Indiana University, were hesitant to set specific dates, in case another highly infectious variant like Delta struck. Which brings me to …

Many experts I’ve spoken to have mentioned Nevada as a model for how schools might think about creating exit policies for masks. What’s nice about the state’s indoor masking policy is that it also provides a ramp back if there are Covid surges – “an on / off switch based on the local transmission rates, ”as described by Julia Raifman and Alexandra Skinner of Boston University.

The state is using the CDC’s Covid-19 County Check Tool to assess whether there is low, moderate, substantial, or high transmission. If there is heavy or high transmission in a county, masks are required in indoor public spaces. In case of weak or moderate transmission, the masks may come off. (Experts disagree on the level of community transmission that should spur an unmasking movement in schools – some believe the level may be higher than in the wider community, as illnesses linked to Covid in children tend to be less severe; others think the level should be lower because many schools have outdated HVAC systems.)

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