In trying to get a handle on public sentiment regarding kids wearing masks, I feel oddly outnumbered. At least on the internet, it feels like everyone is shouting that making kids wear masks is, literally, a form of torture. Literally, as in, the actual meaning of the word — not the hyperbolic way folks usually use it these days.
Meanwhile, the CDC recommends children ages 2 and up who are unvaccinated continue to mask up. Trusted health websites advocate for mask-wearing among children ages 2 and up. My kids’ physician says my unvaccinated 11-year-old daughter should continue to mask up until she can be vaccinated, a step he also recommends as soon as it’s available.
But social media booms with the screams of parents and wannabe scientists and doctors who appear to sincerely believe that asking to children to wear a mask is both totally unnecessary and an actual form of torture.
Why the discrepancy between what medical experts including my own doctor say and this alternative narrative that is screaming from the internet?
Kids Wearing Masks — Am I Missing Something?
I researched, trying hard to keep an open mind — maybe the CDC really is full of shit? Maybe my doctor is the rare pro-vax, pro-mask anomaly? I read the articles opposing masks. I read one that claimed with apparent sincerity that wearing a mask makes you stupid — not stupid as in, only stupid people wear masks, but stupid as in, the act of wearing a mask literally decreases your cognitive ability and makes you more docile, more compliant, easier to manipulate.
It compared the government’s request that we mask up to ancient humans’ domestication of cows. The article was presented as scientific and was full of citations. But it lacked nuanced logic and was bursting with false equivalencies like the mask-wearing / bovine domestication thing.
Other articles made a case that kids are being psychologically harmed by being unable to see one another’s smiles or that they are being deprived of oxygen, made sicker than if they were to actually be infected with COVID-19. One op-ed from a Vermont-based site put the words virus and case in quotes, as if to indicate neither were real. “Governor Scott/the state of Vermont is engaging in torture via the emergency order,” the person wrote. Weirdly, in the same article the writer admits that the governor lifted mask mandates and yet most Vermonters have voluntarily opted to continue wearing them anyway to prevent spread to the parts of the community who remain unvaccinated.
Again and again, these articles purporting to be harbingers of logic and reason turn out to be full of false equivalencies and contradictions.
Can We Get A Reality Check, Please?
I traveled to Vermont on May 13 to visit my long-distance partner. At the time, Vermont had almost no cases at all and boasted the highest vaccination rate in the nation. On May 14, the day after I arrived, Governor Scott lifted the mask mandate for vaccinated individuals. Coming from Florida, it completely shocked me that everyone still opted to wear a mask, especially inside, purely out of consideration for those who may still be fearful. (It also made the Vermont-based op-ed extra odd to me.)
I watched my partner’s seven-year-old twins play in a baseball game; being outside, some kids were masked and some weren’t. Same for the 10-year-old’s soccer game. When we met the kids at school for pickup, they were still wearing their masks and even had to be reminded to remove them. They were skipping around with their lunchboxes, being silly with their friends, completely oblivious that they were still wearing a mask. Torture? I’m sorry, but that is just fucking laughable.
These kids have been taught the reasons for masking up. They understand. They don’t want to get sick and they don’t want to be the reason anyone else gets sick. Would they likely prefer to not have to wear a mask at all if given the option? Anyone would. But they also understand and accept the reasoning behind this precaution.
Kids Care About Others — If We Give Them The Tools To Do So
But I would also bet that the only reason any kid would claim they feel they’re being “tortured” by the requirement to wear a mask is that they’re parroting what an adult has told them. I would also bet that most kids don’t know what actual torture is. Nor should they, but why are adults diluting the meaning of this word by acting like asking a child to cover their mouth and nose with a thin cloth to protect our fellow citizens is akin to waterboarding them?
I would also bet that if any kid who called wearing a mask “torture” knew the potential for how sick they could get, or how sick someone they love could get, they would reconsider their resistance to mask-wearing. Kids want to care about others. Let them.
When Young People Get Sick
It really hit home with me how sick kids can get when a freelancing colleague of mine shared on social media that her unvaccinated 15-year-old daughter contracted COVID-19 and within days was in the hospital. She suffered pulmonary embolisms and almost died. This mom had tried to get her daughter vaccinated but couldn’t because her daughter’s other parent was opposed to it.
Too many people are perpetuating the myth that kids can’t get sick and using that as a reason to oppose masks and vaccinations. While it’s true kids’ symptoms are typically milder, they absolutely can get sick and can develop life-threatening symptoms or multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).
It’s tragic how frequently I see stories of people who brazenly proclaimed their apparent invulnerability to a disease they believed was no more than a tool for the government to “control” us — and then got sick with COVID-19 and died. This young woman, Olivia Guidry, was a nurse.
This young woman’s death was tragic. It was preventable. She should have lived a full life.
While I don’t think most of the parents calling mask-wearing by kids “torture” are deliberately lying, I do think they’ve bought into an agenda that doesn’t really have their kids’ best interests at heart.
Our kids are not being tortured when they wear masks. When we explain to them the purpose of masks, they get it. They want to do their part. And they get used to wearing them and don’t think it’s a big deal. They absolutely can breathe in them (I literally saw kids playing soccer in them and not complaining one bit).
As for me, I still wear a mask when I go out even though I’m vaccinated because I don’t want to pass COVID-19 to my unvaccinated 11-year-old daughter. Mari knows she will be masked up when she goes back to school in the fall. She’s perfectly fine with it, because she knows it’s a small thing we can do to keep ourselves and others safe.
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