August 31, 2021

School Mask Mandates

“The Education Department on Monday opened civil rights investigations into five Republican-led states that have banned or limited mask requirements in schools, saying the policies could amount to discrimination against students with disabilities or health conditions.” AP News

Nationally, there are state mask mandates for approximately 40.2 percent of schools and mask mandates barred for 7.6 percent. Burbio

See past issues

From the Left

The left is generally supportive of school mask mandates, arguing that we should take all reasonable precautions to protect children and keep them in school.

“Children now account for nearly 1 in 5 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S, and pediatric Covid-19 hospitalizations have reached their pandemic record. Schools that have opened without mitigation measures in place now have sent thousands of students into quarantine within days, and staff shortages have forced others to close. Even as vaccines continue to protect against hospitalizations and death, mounting data highlights the imperative to employ robust strategies to protect children too young to be vaccinated…

“Governors must mandate robust school guidance that employs all evidence-based tools to keep kids healthy and in school, including universal masking, ventilation, testing, and controls on high-risk indoor activities.”
Anne N. Sosin, Time Magazine

“More than 4.5 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 as of last week, according to a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics. August pediatric cases are up precipitously compared to July with more than 180,000 added the week ended Aug. 19 – 22.4% of the weekly reported cases. I don't care about the politics. As pediatric cases of COVID-19 rise, I just want my child to have some small amount of protection. Asking her and those around her to don a tiny piece of fabric seems like a simple ask.”
Julia Thompson, USA Today

“Kids have been going to all kinds of places where they wear masks and they’ve been managing. No one should pretend this is normal for the long term. Still, we give kids far too little credit. They’re generally adaptable and able to understand limitations well — at times, it would seem, far better than their parents…

“Think of it this way: At most schools, kids have to wear closed-toe shoes for safety. They might prefer flip-flops, feeling more comfortable with their toes wiggling in the open air, but that’s not the way it goes. Masks are just another part of the school dress code for now… If we’re going to err, let’s err on the side of safeguards that maximize the chance that we can keep schools open.”
Karin Klein, Los Angeles Times

Some note that “Over and over, studies and reports on children in schools with low transmission rates claim in their summaries that masking students helped keep transmission down. But looking at the underlying data in these studies, masks were always required or widely worn, and implemented in concert with a variety of other interventions, such as increased ventilation. Without a comparison group that didn’t require student masking, it’s difficult or impossible to isolate the effect of masks…

“While masks offer some protection for adults in many environments, as the adage in pediatrics goes, children are not little adults. Medicine is littered with examples of adult interventions that don’t translate to children…

“Many of America’s peer nations around the world — including the U.K., Ireland, all of Scandinavia, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Italy — have exempted kids, with varying age cutoffs, from wearing masks in classrooms. Conspicuously, there’s no evidence of more outbreaks in schools in those countries relative to schools in the U.S., where the solid majority of kids wore masks for an entire academic year…

“‘We lack credible evidence for benefits of masking kids aged 2 to 5, despite what the American Academy of Pediatrics says,’ Jeffrey Flier, former dean of Harvard Medical School, wrote recently.”
David Zweig, New York Magazine

From the Right

The right is generally critical of school mask mandates, arguing that these decisions should be made at the local level, and that other measures would be more effective.

The right is generally critical of school mask mandates, arguing that these decisions should be made at the local level, and that other measures would be more effective.

“The [Office for Civil Rights (OCR] has authority to revoke federal funding from institutions it deems to be violating civil-rights law. A 1973 federal law bars discrimination against students with disabilities. Because people with certain disabilities are at greater risk if infected with the coronavirus, OCR implies that states that restrict mask mandates are violating students’ civil rights…

“What a contortion of the law. Far from being a question of civil rights, the wisdom of mask mandates, like all Covid mitigation measures, is an empirical and policy debate. Certainly no one would suggest that anti-mask policies are based on animus toward students with disabilities…

“Our view is that school districts are best situated to decide school masking policies for themselves. Some governors may even have exceeded their statutory authority by dictating school masking policies, as judges recently ruled in Texas and Florida. Yet the OCR’s effort to federalize the issue is an abuse of its power. It’s redolent of the CDC’s now-invalidated eviction ban in using the pandemic to aggrandize the power of unelected agency heads over vast swaths of American life.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“The local control option will always be preferable to a statewide mandate. Both infection rates and transmissibility vary from place to place and that applies to Massachusetts as much as anywhere else. Urban districts with denser populations may see wider fluctuations in new cases and hospitalizations, so they might opt for mandatory masking. More rural areas probably have far fewer cases and wouldn’t choose to burden the parents and the children in this fashion. What works in Boston may be totally wrong for farm country.”
Jazz Shaw, Hot Air

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends ‘universal indoor masking of all students age 2 and older.’ There’s just one problem: The leading study on which the CDC bases this recommendation found that the COVID-19 infection rate in schools requiring students to wear masks ‘was not statistically significant compared with schools where mask use was optional.’…

“The authors of the study examined the effects of various mitigation efforts, including making ventilation improvements, spacing desks 6 feet apart, masking teachers, and masking students, whether voluntary or mandatory. The study found that mask requirements for teachers and staff and ‘ventilation improvements’—such as opening windows—had a statistically significant effect. Other interventions did not…

“Some parents still may insist that their children attend only schools that require students to wear masks. But more honest communication by the CDC would clarify that this is a clash over parental preferences, not over science.”
Doug Badger, Daily Signal

“Mandating masks also ignores the fundamental fact that not all masks are created equal. That should be the basis for a truce in the mask wars breaking out all over the nation. Mandates that settle for cloth masks with cartoon characters on them are a joke… Instead of mandating masks, school districts should hand out effective masks, such as N95 or KN95 masks, at the beginning of the school day to kids whose parents request them. These masks block 95% of incoming viral particles. The masks were in short supply at the beginning of the pandemic, but no longer.”
Betsy McCaughey, Townhall

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