Opinion

Please parents, mask your children as they return to school

I can recall clearly the first day that each of my three children walked to and from school on their own. I worried about whether they would get there without mishap. But I took for granted that, once at school, they would be safe. (I am Canadian, so that is something I could take for granted).

My children have grown up and navigate the neighbourhood and the world independently for the most part. My back-to-school worries, however, are greater this year than ever. As schools reopen, I am concerned about safety, not on route to school, but within elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools.

As a family physician, I’ve lost count of the number of patients who have been infected with COVID-19, with some children and their parents reinfected for the third or fourth time. This year, we are sending children and educators back to school without mask mandates, without improvements to ventilation and without adequate HEPA filtration in classrooms, knowing full-well that COVID-19 is airborne and that rates of COVID-19 are still high (though we no longer test and report). Many of our youngest children still have not received their first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine and are at risk of serious illness and hospitalization. The majority of children 5 and older haven’t yet had a booster dose. We know that there are long-term neurologic, cognitive, endocrine, cardiac, respiratory and other consequences to infection with COVID-19, and the risk of long-COVID increases with reinfection.

Stop right there if your response is, “But our politicians say that COVID-19 spreads in the community, not in schools,” or, “We aren’t required to wear masks outside of schools, so why should we bother at school?” There are so many flaws to that logic.

It is incontrovertible that mask mandates reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Yes, COVID-19 spreads in every environment. When you walk into a grocery store, a mall or a local shop and you are maskless, you put employees and every other patron at risk. Masks are most effective when EVERYONE wears one, indoors and in crowds outdoors. It is incontrovertible that mask mandates reduce the spread of COVID-19. Ideally, we would provide respirators such as N95s to every household (even if it isn’t fit-tested, it is designed to trap viral particles and has a better filtration system and fit than cloth or surgical masks). A study of Boston-area school districts analyzed the impact of lifting school mask requirements and demonstrated a significant worsening of outcome (spread of COVID-19) in schools that ended mask requirements compared with those that maintained mask requirements. The study estimates that approximately 30 per cent of all cases that occurred in Boston-area schools in spring 2022 can be attributed to the removal of mask mandates. Another study from Boston University shows that indoor masking and vaccine mandates at universities are sufficient to make in-class transmission rare.

Leaving it up to individuals to “choose” whether to mask discriminates against people with disabilities.

So, why should we require masks in schools if masks aren’t required indoors in other environments? Because we should be doing everything that we can, in every context, to take care of each other. A policy failure in one instance does not justify other policy failures. COVID-19 outbreaks in educational settings result in students, educators and their families missing school and work. Even if those same people limit their activities outside of school, and do what they can to mitigate their risk, they should not have to keep their children home from school to keep them safe.

Education is a right. Leaving it up to individuals to “choose” whether to mask discriminates against people with disabilities; it actively undermines the efforts by those who are masked (unmasked educators and classmates put them at risk); and it has psychological consequences (teasing of children, peer pressure).

To make matters worse, in many parts of the world, health care is in crisis. Hospitals are struggling with staff shortages; family doctors and pediatricians are overwhelmed and exhausted. We are bracing ourselves for the impact of the next wave of COVID-19 this autumn, at the same time as other respiratory viruses take hold. If my child in university or in high school brings home COVID-19, my office will close for weeks and there will be nobody to care for my patients. Magnify that by every health-care worker in your community to understand the impact of unmitigated spread of a preventable disease.

We have tools to substantially reduce COVID-19 transmission risk in schools. I implore parents: Send your child to school in a mask. Educators, wear an N95 mask to be a role model for your students. Demand that your educational institutions and workplaces go above and beyond the minimum health and safety requirements. Please.

 

 

 

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28 Comments
  • Frank says:

    Not a single person in our household, 8 of us, from ages 6 to 78 have taken your injections and not a single one of us has been Ill. Are we a medical anomaly? Last winter was supposed to be the winter of serious illness and death yet here we are. Now my injected neighbours on the other hand have all been ill. How can this be?

  • Julio DeGullio says:

    While you’re wearing your well fitting masks, wear a jock just in case you get kicked in the nads and a helmet just in case a tree falls in your head
    .
    Wake up people, stop being lemmings

  • Adam says:

    My child is in her first year of school and the school said she is NOT ALLOWED to wear a mask because of current government guidelines. Only with a letter from her doctor can she wear one because of a health condition that requires it. They have taken away the choice to wear a mask or not. With over 100,000 children and 2m adults with long covid in the uk, i think this is a dangerous rule to enforce. At least give the choice.

  • john says:

    eveyone knows more then doctors.

    Wear a mask

  • Paul says:

    Forcing kids to wear masks so their emotionally unstable parents can fulfill their immature need of control and false safety and security is beyond ridiculous!
    Every single loving parent should protest with full extend of the law and during election remember to vote for pro-feeedom politicians and not some corrupted, sponsored by big pharma criminals (vide the murderer Trudeau). Stop this covidiotism and start living.

  • Angus says:

    One constant over the past few years is that children have always been at very low risk of death & serious illness from Covid infection. To the point where even an unvaxed 8 year-old is safer than a boosted 65 year-old.

    Kaplan-Myrth sidesteps this fact by lying about it (“our youngest children … are at risk of serious illness and hospitalization”), and then by focusing on the downstream effects of children passing on Covid to others.

    Something about this doesn’t sit well with me. Human societies go to great lengths to provide for children’s wellbeing, even to the point of imposing certain demands on adults.

    But here we are asking children to shoulder this burden on adults’ behalf. We are proposing to make children compensate for alleged policy failures of adults. We can’t mask the restaurants but we can mask the schools, and children are not in a position to refuse.

    This is ethically backwards, and all the therapeutic language in the world (“protecting”, “taking care of”, etc ad nauseum) cannot make it right.

    We know that facial expression is important for human communication, learning and social development. Sure, it’s POSSIBLE that forcing kids to mask all day in daycare and in school will do minimal long-term harm to them. But why take that chance when you don’t have to?

    The benefits of masking children are very small and the potential for harm is non-negligible. Think about this. Pull your 2019 brain out of the closet.

    To put it in terms that Covidians might understand, we need to use the precautionary principle.

  • rickk says:

    BTW – please do wear a mask if this makes you feel comfortable and safe.
    Please leave the rest of us alone – after all your mask works for you and now you are comfortable and safe.

  • rickk says:

    Now only if there was compelling evidence to show masking children (nay anyone) had any utility, then this would be a healthy debate. Notwithstanding no children have died from covid alone (besides those with notable medical conditions like cancer etc).

  • Steve Harris says:

    The science on Covid and masking can be up for debate which is good. But the data has always been clear – those under 20 are at a statistically zero (0) chance of death or serious illness due to Covid. This has been painfully obvious and available on both the federal and provincial health websites since the start if you went looking for it. Stop the insanity.

    • LilyRose says:

      Agree. There is a chance that a child might suffer from long COVID. Why risk it? Same goes for adults, even if you are vaccinated and boosted, and the chances are you will only suffer mild symptoms, why risk suffering from long COVID?. Why not just wear a mask?

  • Sharon says:

    Thank you. As a frontline healthcare worker that was working during sars1, I find the resistance to masking unbelievable.
    Canada has some great n95 manufacturers now. They’re comfortable and my child wears one consistently without complaint. She comes home for lunch with friends in our garage. I want to protect her future bc covid is not mild in kids. Long term implications are serious. It’s my job as a parent to be aware and keep her as safe as possible. (And her friends/teachers)

    • Amir Mousavi says:

      My son got covid 2 times and I got 3 times and I am happy we weren’t putting on mask unless it was by law. We prefer to die. Thanks for your idea about others life.

  • Dee says:

    You are in a covodian cult. When will you ever stop wearing masks? And poor kids who are at NO risk hide behind them. As a teacher the social and emotional insecurity masks have created are abundant, speech and socialization have taken a huge hit… and masks don’t work. Did they stop omnicron? NOPE. Seek counseling to escape your cult please

  • John Anthony says:

    Fact that your a doctor is petrifying. If I’m 2019 you didn’t close your practice when your kid came down with a cold then doing so no makes zero sense.

  • Richard says:

    No.

  • Chris Martin says:

    No, we will not be sending my child to school in a mask, in September 2022. Our daughter has had Covid, and is fully-vaccinated, as are both her parents (who also have had Covid). We need to move past this. It is very important that we do Look around, and you will see most people have left this behind. And, yes—Covid is not over, nor will it ever be—but the big freak-out needs to end. The seatbelt analogies need to be put to rest. The slandering of those that chose not to get vaccinated needs to stop—and the author of this article needs to let the relentless mask begging go. She and her family can wear masks—but she needs to stop with the sanctimonious scolding. She had the gall to call people who didn’t mask “racists” once the mandates were dropped in Ontario. How does one come to that conclusion? That statement spoke volumes to me, and provided insight into the type of personality we are dealing with. Masking is now a personal choice, and we should respect that, regardless of the choice on the matter.

  • Kelly Kramer says:

    Thank you, Dr. Kaplan-Myrth. I fully agree. Even though much of the rest of society has decided to move on, I continue to mask when I go out and my children do the same. Reading some of the comments here, I’m disappointed though not surprised the only “evidence” they provide against masking comes from the libertarian Brownstone who are obviously against taking any precautions. For those looking for actual evidence, there is plenty that suggest that masks are not harmful and are in fact helpful for children in situations like this. Here’s one of the best that I have read:
    https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/do-masks-really-harm-kids-heres-what-the-science-says

  • Steve Lane says:

    Masks are utterly useless againist a virus you need a electron microscope to see. The virus sails right through or the path of least resistance. Masks impede proper air flow for a healthy immune system. Allow you to rebreath waste air and act a collector of bacteria. And act as a source of infection. The clear majority of studies including RCT studies show masks offer no protection and in fact increase spread. Masks also interfere with kids learning from lack of facial cues, etc. This so called doctor is basically living in a fantasy land of control.
    Expert Industrial Hygienists clearly tell you masks are useless and counter productive.
    https://youtu.be/J3dnkbKoj4A

  • Tom Wambsgans says:

    Masks (cloth face covers in particular) do nothing to prevent the spread of viral respiratory infections. There is zero evidence to support the use of face covers ANYWHERE. There is ample evidence showing their ineffectiveness and the many harms they cause to the wearer and those who value non verbal communication. This article is a disgrace. Whoever wrote it has no regard for “the science”, not to mention “the common sense”. Please stop with this nonsense. You are ruining lives and protecting no one.

    https://brownstone.org/articles/more-than-150-comparative-studies-and-articles-on-mask-ineffectiveness-and-harms/

  • TC Raptensha says:

    Thank you for this article. As someone who has masked children in school I would appreciate others to do the same to keep the community safe. It seems sadly that we have discovered that there is a lot of selfish people who do not care about community. I struggle even within my own family. My own husband kept claiming he was immune and went to family functions with no precautions. Today he tested positive for covid after just seeing his elderly parents. . Good luck to us all

    • Tom Wambsgans says:

      Why are you masking children in school? Have you considered the harms these face covers are doing to your children’s development? Have you even conducted a basic cost benefit analysis? Do you know of any mask studies which show the value of masking children? Do you know the IFR (Infection Fatality Rate) of Covid19, in young people (virtually zero) and in the general population (close to zero 0.15%)
      The PCR (and the rapid) tests cannot distinguish between SARS CoV 2 and other respiratory coronaviruses and rhinoviruses, so I would suggest you stop using these tests as a measure of anything other than your own fear levels.

    • Steve Lane says:

      You know why masks were never recommended for any other virus? Because the science for decades has shown they are ineffective. What animal covers their main source of life? https://brownstone.org/articles/how-dangerous-are-masks-for-children/

    • Kelly says:

      It’s easy to call people Selfish who don’t think like you …this is very ignorant. The best thing to do is to try and understand why others might not think like you and respond to a situation differently.

    • Mary Justine says:

      Think for just a moment please. We were all forced to be masked for 2 years! What did this accomplish? People continue to get and give Covid regardless of masking, vaccines, and all the damaging hand sanitizers. Enough is enough! When will you wake up. Masks don’t work. Vaccines have not worked! If they worked why are people still getting Covid? I thought the idea of the vax was to stop the spread. Everyone needs to go back to living life normally and STOP terrifying our young kids. Suicide rate is sky rocketing. Is it any wonder why? People have gone mad!!

  • Doug Ford says:

    Written in transparently bad faith. Cherry picks a couple studies as thin justification for her position but lazily fails to refute numerous other studies that reached the opposite conclusion — probably because she lives in an echo chamber and hasn’t read them. Doctors should not be partisan hacks. Doctors should not be clout chasing on Twitter in the midst of a genuine health care crisis.

    Nili, if you’re reading this, which I know you will — please step out of your echo chamber for a day and stop imposing your childhood trauma-induced anxieties on the rest of the population.

  • Genesis says:

    Well, thank you for your absolutely unscientific analyses.

    Appreciate you using your full name so we all can avoid getting anywhere near you. I am spreading this opinion piece far and wide. Enough of the Kabuki “Dr”.

    Btw, just an aside since we actually do have plenty of actual data provided by the wonderful gov and children under 14 are statistically more likely to die from a nosebleed than a respiratory virus like Influenza C. Children are statistically 10x more likely to die from Influenza A.

    You really should be ashamed good “Dr”.

Authors

Nili Kaplan-Myrth

Contributor

Dr Nili Kaplan-Myrth is a family physician and medical anthropologist who writes about health policy and politics.

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