HomeHealth Care NewsMasks on Kids Defy the Facts - Commentary

Masks on Kids Defy the Facts – Commentary

By Chad Savage, M.D.

Evidenced-Based Medicine (EBM) is a science-based, philosophical approach to the practice of medicine that has shaped medical care for a generation. Dating at least as far back as mid-19th century Paris, EBM stresses the use of the “best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients.”

However, it’s clear from the latest push to mandate masks for children in the classroom that health policy bureaucrats have abandoned “best evidence” in favor of low-level scientific certainty. In addition to their promulgation via unconstitutional authority, these overbroad, under-scienced mask edicts for society’s least COVID-susceptible population could cause far worse long-term health outcomes for children.

Leaving aside one’s politics and position on the unprecedented levels of control exerted by the bureaucratic state, the question remains: is it a good idea to force kids to wear masks in school?

Masks Don’t Stop the Virus

We have known since the beginning of the pandemic that children are the least likely to spread COVID, the least likely to be harmed by COVID, and the most likely to be harmed from COVID-restrictions. In fact. the difference in mortality is so pronounced that, compared to children, the elderly are 4,333 times more likely to die from COVID and account for 80 percent of all COVID deaths.

Children make up about one-half of one-tenth of one percent of COVID deaths. And nearly all of those deaths involved substantial pre-existing illnesses like leukemia.

Furthermore, COVID’s impact on the elderly makes government policy deciders’ laser focus on schools even more puzzling. Zeroing in on children diverts efforts to protect the most at-risk groups. By analogy, if there were an infection that nearly exclusively affected children would we mandate masks for nursing home residents?

Arguments in favor of masking depend upon one potentially very incorrect assertion: that masks work.

The Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) position on masking efficacy is based on shaky science. The studies cited to justify the agency’s position involve painfully small sample populations (such as a study of two hairstylists and the patrons they could track down), they’re retrospective and self-reported (subject to confounding), or they’re based on modeling (educated guesses of what will happen). Modeling has specifically been shown to be highly inaccurate during the pandemic revealing how much we still do not know about the spread of contagion.

By contrast, studies that fail to show a benefit from masking are inexplicably excluded from the CDC assessment, even though they used better study designs and measurements of real-world transmission instead of the hypothetical modeling upon which the CDC relied—that suggests masks may work in hypothesis but not reality.

Regardless of study data, if masks worked anywhere near the claimed 70 percent reduction in transmission, mandating masks would be like turning off a COVID light switch. However, looking at graphs charting COVID cases, there’s virtually no way to tell from the trajectories of COVID in those communities when mask mandates are implemented or withdrawn—a point illustrated by the entertaining COVID Charts Quiz.

Masks Harm Children

Even if mask mandates lack proven efficacy many contend: “What’s the harm?”

Kids do crazy things like dropping their mask on a bathroom floor only to put it back on their face, wear heavily soiled masks for days or wear them so incorrectly that even a hypothesized benefit is unattainable.

More direct measures of harm have also been demonstrated.

In the most exhaustive empirical review of masking research to date, German researchers identified numerous side-effects from masking including headache, anxiety, drowsiness, restricted breathing, skin irritation, decreased empathy perception, and others.

Beyond those immediate side-effects, difficulty breathing while masked may reduce participation in exercise and sports, leading to obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases which paradoxically could make them susceptible to COVID.

Masks induce activation of the sympathetic nervous system causing increased pulse, respiratory rate, and blood pressure possibly increasing these children’s lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the United States even during COVID.

Study subjects also reported impaired focus and attention which would undermine their ability to function as a student. Facial obscuration likely impairs the development of expressive communication and socialization during key stages of development with unknown long-term consequences.

Ironically, masks could worsen COVID spread as they muffle speech, causing children to speak louder which increases the aerosolization of COVID.

These and other side-effects reveal a fuller extent of the harms that we know and how much we still do not know about the consequences of mandated masking and should be included when crafting public health policies like mask mandates that are, by nature, intrusive.

Better Solutions

By focusing on potentially ineffective masking, we distract from pursuing potentially more effective measures like UV decontamination HEPA filtration systems. Unlike masks, these destroy the virus and make high-risk poorly ventilated indoor spaces more like low-risk outdoor spaces.

Further, societally, non-legislative mandates are the antithesis of a free society that harms the world into which these children are being raised to inhabit.

We all want the COVID pandemic to end. However, that does not justify experimenting on an entire generation. Instead, we should return to the principles of calm and reasoned Evidence-Based Medicine using the best science to guide our policy creation and ensure that we protect both our children and the civil liberties that make this pandemic worth emerging from.

We all want the COVID pandemic to end. However, that does not justify experimenting on an entire generation. Instead, we should return to the principles of calm and reasoned Evidence-Based Medicine using the best science to guide our policy creation and ensure that we protect both our children and the civil liberties that make this pandemic worth emerging from.

A version of the article appeared in The Detroit News on August 26, 2021.                    Chad Savage, M.D., (info@d4pcfoundation.org)is a healthcare policy advisor to the Heartland Institute and fellow for the Docs4Patient Care Foundation.                     Reprinted with permission.

AnneMarie Schieber
AnneMarie Schieber is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Health Care News, Heartland's monthly newspaper for health care reform.

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