Many Americans consider the COVID-19 pandemic to be over, with the prevalent strains of the virus presenting as a bad cold, but some school districts are re-imposing mask mandates for children.
Public schools in Louisville, Kentucky, and possibly Los Angeles could join the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) in requiring children and adults to wear masks indoors. San Diego’s policy requires mask-wearing at all district schools and offices, effective on July 18.
An update sent to parents stated the district will announce any changes.
“We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 community level according to the CDC and County data and we will communicate if there are any changes in two weeks,” said the SDUSD.
The district says the decision was based on criteria for mandating masking the SDUSD school board adopted in May.
“This week, one of those criteria was reached, with San Diego County entering the ‘high’ COVID-19 community [transmission] level,” said the statement.
Conflicting Government Advice
Mask mandates typically do not specify which type of face covering to wear.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention admitted in January, about two years into the pandemic, that the widely worn cloth masks are ineffective at preventing the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Studies have shown that both cloth and surgical masks are far less efficient than N95 and KN95 masks at filtering out aerosols.
But Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said people “should wear a mask in a congregate indoor setting,” on CNN’s New Day program, discussing his recommendations regarding the new BA.5 variant of the Omicron strain, on July 13.
Public policy recommendations to bring back mask mandates are not justified by the science, says Patrick Wood, director of Citizens for Free Speech, an advocacy group.
“The entire policy is political and not based on any legitimate scientific studies,” Wood told Health Care News.
Some officials want to return to pandemic measures, says Wood.
“There is both public and private pressure to return to wearing face masks,” said Wood. “San Diego and Los Angeles are two civic entities that have reinstituted face masks.”
Most businesses and events have stopped requiring masks, but the recent Comic-Con 2022 gathering in San Diego required proof of vaccination in addition to mandatory face masks for all attendees. A New York City subway mask mandate is still in effect, long after other restrictions in the state have been lifted.
Throughout the pandemic, Citizens for Free Speech collected testimonials from parents, teachers, and students on how the masks impacted their health, education, and socialization.
They found mask mandates, particularly when enforced against schoolchildren, are physically and psychologically damaging, says Wood.
“Pediatricians have reported skin bacterial and fungal face infections, pneumonia, fainting, and breathing problems,” said Wood. “Psychologists have reported regression in language skills, depression, loneliness, social isolation, and thoughts of suicide. It’s all bad and there is no upside to any child wearing a face mask to protect against a virus.”
Harry Painter (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes from Oklahoma.