Require Masks In Schools And Stop Putting Kids In Danger

Op-Ed: All Schools Need To Require Masks This Year — Here’s Why

Young Students on School Campus Wearing Medical Face Masks
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Now that we’re at the asshole end of summer break, parents everywhere are simultaneously relieved to send their kids back to in-person schooling and freaked out about the Delta variant. After all, we’re not terrible people. We long for child-free days because time actually protracts and a single day expands to 61,302,013 hours (actual number) during summer. But also, many of our kids do better with learning in the classroom instead of over Zoom.

However.

If we’re sending our kids back to school, I’d like to respectfully request that all schools require masks next year — for children and adults — vaxxed or not.

Scratch that. There’s no “respectfully” about it. Mask up or fuck off. (Barring medical conditions that prevent you from doing so. Real medical conditions. Not the fake ones anti-vaxxers come with.)

I don’t even have a horse in this race — I homeschool my children. Except, I also send my children to extracurricular classes with other children who do go to school. And if these children start getting the Delta variant or COVID in general, I don’t want my kids to have to go back to another period of time being stuck in my house with only each other to bicker. (I mean, also, I don’t want my children to get COVID.)

Also also — I just plonked down a whole stack of cash to renew my four children’s kung-fu annual tuition — so I’d really like them to partake in person instead of online. I may homeschool my kids, but that doesn’t mean I like being around them all day any more than folks who don’t.

Yeah, yeah. People just want to return to normal.

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I feel as if I’m beating a dead horse. Aren’t folks tired? Like, not tired of the pandemic or wearing masks. Of course, everyone is tired of that bullshit. (But also, I really hope we continue with masking culture in the future. I don’t care if you can function with your shitty cold — I don’t want it. Stay home, Martha. Wear a fucking mask if you can’t.)

I mean, aren’t folks tired of hearing the same shit? And by shit, I mean the repeated COVID surges and assholes acting brand new. Every time we have some good news — like zero COVID patients at a major San Francisco hospital in May — we have folks acting like it’s Armistice Day, as if the war on COVID is over when it’s more accurately the Christmas Truce of 1914.

Yes, yes. I realize I just mixed two separate World War metaphors. Stay on task here, Margaret.

But also, the Delta variant is no joke.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) they are recommending universal masking in schools because children under 12 years old aren’t yet eligible for vaccination and it is still unknown when exactly vaccines will be available for them. (Experts are hoping for mid-winter, but who knows? And also — who knows if people will actually comply?)

I don’t care that the updated guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) only recommends masking for unvaccinated individuals. (For fuck’s sake, do better, CDC.) Not only does universal masking allow for a consistent message and expectation among students and staff, it’s way easier and efficient to mandate masking for all children instead of going through the whole rigmarole of daily checking on children’s vaccination status. (Or adults, for that matter.)

Plus, when have children ever not taken a difference and used it as a weapon? I’ll wait.

The Delta variant now accounts for 83% of U.S. COVID cases. For perspective, it was at 30% as of June 19 and by July 3, it crossed the threshold over 50%. In baby language, that’s one helluva jump.

If you need a brief refresher course, here are some other alarming facts about the Delta variant:

  • Not only is the Delta variant more contagious, it may cause more severe infections.
  • Most of those infected are unvaccinated.
  • The Delta variant can infect even those who are fully vaccinated.
  • It may even be more contagious in breakthrough infections than previously thought.
  • The Delta variant has unique mutations that may trick the immune system into missing it — as well as make the virus bind more tightly to your cells.

In-person schooling can be done safely

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Look, I’m not advocating we shut down all schools and force ourselves back indoors for another year and a half. I’m not a complete asshole. After all, research consistently shows that opening schools for in-person instruction doesn’t usually lead to an uptick in community COVID transmission — but only when masking and proper COVID protocols are observed. (As in implemented, not just seen.)

In a new CDC study released on July 30, an outbreak in Provincetown, Mass. reported that 74% of the infected were people who had been fully vaccinated. Four people in this 74% were serious enough to be hospitalized.

In the CDC’s weekly report, CDC researchers and the local health departments disclosed that “… testing identified the Delta variant in 90% of specimens from 133 patients.” This is notable because it’s the first study to contradict earlier claims that vaccinated people were almost completely safe from serious manifestations of COVID — even including the variants like Delta.

Case in point: this Arkansas school has already had to quarantine 168 students and 3 staff due to 7 students and 3 staff members testing positive for COVID.

I mean, yeah, it’s Arkansas so are we surprised? But also — let’s not kid ourselves (no pun intended). There will be more and more of these headlines as the 2021-2022 school year opens across America. I’m looking at you, Florida and Texas.

“There are many children and others who cannot be vaccinated,” said Sara Bode, MD, FAAP, in an AAP press release, referencing the updated AAP 2021-2022 school year guidelines. The chairperson elect of the AAP Council on School Health Executive Committee added, “This is why it’s important to use every tool in our toolkit to safeguard children from COVID-19. Universal masking is one of those tools and has been proven effective in protecting people against other respiratory diseases, as well.”

Despite the recommendations, I’m not particularly reassured about our children — many of who cannot be vaccinated yet due to lack of vaccine availability — going to school as if we’re not still in the middle of this pandemic fuckery. I’m not asking for schools to be shut down and kids to remain at home. But given the circumstances, masking feels like the only right thing to do.

 

Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.