California health officials have mandated face coverings for all students as schools reopen, citing that “treating all children equally will support a calm and supportive school environment.” .”

There is a much better way to achieve the same goal: stop wearing masks for all students, vaccinate or not.

The benefit of masks in preventing serious illness or death from COVID-19 in children is small. At the same time, they disrupt learning and communication in the classroom. They may be partially effective in protecting adults from COVID, but since when is it ethical to burden children for the benefit of adults?

COVID-19 is less of a threat to children than an accident or the common flu. The US child survival rate with confirmed cases is approximately 99.99%; Notably, recent studies show even higher survival rates.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that the wearing of masks in schools was associated with a reduction in the incidence of COVID-19 by about 20%, although the impact estimate was indistinguishable. statistically differentiable to zero. Let’s take the effect 20% at face value and do the math. Last month, about 5,000 school-age children in California were diagnosed with COVID-19, meaning 1,000 infections would be prevented if all students wore masks. Given the child survival rate, the masking mission could prevent one child death next school year, a tiny fraction of the approximately 900 deaths of children aged 5 to 17 in 2019. If the goal is to save children’s lives, other interventions – such as improving pool safety – will be much more effective.

At the same time, the long-term harm to children from wearing masks is huge. Masking is a source of psychological stress for children and disrupts learning. Covering the lower half of the faces of both teachers and students reduces communication. In particular, children lose the experience of imitating expressions, an essential tool of nonverbal communication. Positive emotions such as smiling and laughing become less recognised, and negative emotions are amplified. The teacher-student relationship has a strong point. Overall, it’s likely that wearing masks exacerbates children’s likelihood of anxiety and depression, which are already on pandemic levels.

So why do adults insist on wearing masks for children to go to school? Arguing that it treats all children equally is misdirection. Simply put, it’s about self-preservation. Children may not be particularly vulnerable, but they can spread the virus to others, including teachers, school staff and family members, some of whom have vulnerable body.

Last year, the fear went viral so much that even covering your face wasn’t enough. Schools have been shuttered en masse, sacrificing a year and a half of childhood development to keep adults safer. Ironically, evidence from my research and those of others suggests that the impact of school closures on COVID-19 risk is minimal. In Sweden, where schools are not closed and children are not wearing masks, teachers are at lower risk of contracting COVID-19 than the rest of the population. Closing schools in the US is a mistake because the harm to children may outweigh the small benefits to adults.

Today, adults have no reason to put their safety above the well-being of school children. Vaccination is highly effective at preventing adults from going to the hospital and even better at preventing death. A healthy, fully vaccinated teacher will not be affected by the threats posed by COVID-19 spreading in the classroom. To date, every teacher in America has been vaccinated; many are in the first priority group, even above vulnerable older people. If we want to further enhance adult safety, we can do so with other measures, such as improved ventilation, which are less intrusive than masking.

Unvaccinated parents can get sick again if they trust their child not to bring COVID-19 home. They need to step up and be the first line of defense for their families.


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