Public health experts warn that politics surrounding masks could hamper the fight against Covid-19 as schools open classes in the United States.
However, the evidence is clear that masks work in real life.
Public health experts have noticed that schools in some areas, like Hawaii and Georgia, are open longer than others. Students and staff wear masks to keep them safe.
However, Covid-19 can be spread if students and staff don’t wear masks. This could lead to people being forced to return to virtual learning and quarantine.
Schools have been closed for at least a week in this week cluster outbreaks among students or staff caused havoc in Mississippi, Indiana, and Georgia.
Wednesday, February 7, 2008, in Cobb County, the suburbs according to an email from the school district to parents, Atlanta fifth-graders were sent home to learn virtually due to high Covid-19 cases. Daily Reuters obtained this information via a Daily Reuters-sourced school district email. Students and school staff are free to wear masks. According to the website of district, however, there is social distancing in schools when it is possible.
“This morning, based upon our district protocols, and in coordination with the district leaders, the Department of Public Health, we have had to make the difficult choice to have our fifth-grade classes switch to virtual learning because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and high case numbers,” reads the East Side Elementary email.
Students will be able to learn via virtual learning until Friday, Aug 20, and then return to class the next Monday.
Virtual classes are available at the Glascock County Consolidated School, Gibson, Georgia until at least August 20. Nine students and four school staff members were tested positive within the first week, and 99 students had to be quarantined.
The Scott County School District 1 in Indiana informed parents Tuesday that due to “the high rate of positive students and extremely high student in quarantine”, it would be switching to virtual learning beginning Wednesday.
Before the school board decided to keep a hybrid model of teaching, several schools in Lamar County switched to virtual learning. On Monday, Superintendent Steven Hampton stated that while face-to-face learning is the best option, a hybrid teaching model would allow schools to avoid going virtual.
In the classroom, politics, but not masks
The National Education Association is the largest teacher’s union in America and has been closely following the reopening.
Kim Anderson, the executive director of the National Education Association, stated that in schools are in places with strong, collaborative relationships between educators, parents, and community members, and where there is ongoing almost constant communication about factors surrounding safety plans and reopening, things have improved.
“Things aren’t going well in areas where they don’t communicate well or where politicians try to take away the ability of communities trying to protect themselves,
Some states have become heated about implementing mask requirements in schools. At least seven states, including Arkansas, Arizona and Oklahoma, South Carolina (Texas), South Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and South Carolina, have banned districts from requiring schools to wear masks.
However, there have been some attempts to fight back.
In Arkansas, a county circuit judge has temporarily blocked the enforcement of the state’s law banning mask mandates in schools, in response to lawsuits filed by a school district and parents. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has banned mask mandates. However, two Texas judges have temporarily blocked the enforcement of Abbott’s order.
Florida Governor. Ron DeSantis issued an order instructing health and education departments that students wearing masks should be left up to their parents. His office said on Monday that the state board of education could withhold the salaries of superintendents and school board members who disregard the governor’s executive order, which effectively prohibits mask mandates.
Public health officials are urging parents and schools to avoid politics in the classroom. On Sunday, Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the US National Institutes of Health, urged parents to look at masks as what they are.
This is not a political statement, or an invasion of your freedoms. This is a life-saving medical device, and asking kids to wear a mask is uncomfortable, but kids are pretty resilient,” Collins told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on This Week.
This virus will spread faster if there are no masks in schools. Collins stated that it will likely lead to outbreaks in schools, and children will need to return to remote learning, which Collins believes is the best way to combat the virus.
Follow the science and you will end up in the classroom
Multiple studies have demonstrated that masks can reduce the spread of Covid-19.
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in June found that other measures, such as handwashing and physical distancing, are not sufficient to stop the pandemic.
Last week, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said during a Boston town hall that officials are monitoring every jurisdiction and following outbreaks in schools and camps.
Walensky stated that the “places that are having problems, the places where there is disease transmission in schools”, are the ones that don’t have prevention strategies. “The places you see children in hospitals, and the places you see video of them in hospital are places that don’t have mitigation strategies to protect our children.”
“Like adding gasoline and fuel to an already burning fire”
Daily Reuters was informed by Dr. Andrew Pavia from the University of Utah, who is the chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Utah. He also serves as an expert with the Infectious Diseases Society of American.
“We anticipate that schools systems that do not use universal masking and live in high-level transmission areas, can expect spread in schools. “It may take several weeks before we can judge the full impact,” Pavia said in an email to Daily Reuters.
“Predictions can be difficult, but we believe that school districts that use layered strategies like those recommended by the CDC will have a relatively prosperous school year.”
Dr. Bayo Curry-Winchell, regional medical director and family physician at Carbon Health in Reno, Nevada, anticipates that more school districts will require masking, Covid-19 testing and other mitigation efforts in the next month or so.
She said that “The Dallas Independent School Districts and Austin Independent Schools Districts are even defying Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s mask mandate ban, and requiring all students and staff to wear masks.” “School districts will be required to lead in areas where the state or local officials have not implemented mask mandates.
Experts recommend that these preventive measures be taken immediately to stop future increases in Covid-19 hospitalizations and Covid-19 cases.
As of Tuesday, an average of 203 children with Covid-19 were admitted to US hospitals every day over the past week, CDC data shows. This represents a 21% increase in daily hospitalizations for Covid-19 patients aged 17 and older.
In late July, an internal CDC document noted that the Delta coronavirus variant surging across the United States appears to cause more severe illness and can spread as easily as chickenpox — detailing that one person infected with the Delta variant could spread the virus to five to eight other people on average. Each person infected with chickenpox can infect an average of eight to nine people.
Schools that haven’t yet opened, but will in the next few weeks, need to realize that children are at risk for getting sick. Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist and immunologist at NYU Langone Health in New York and spokesperson for the Allergy and Asthma Network, said Daily Reuters.
“Schools need to be concerned because children are getting infected and are sick enough that they fill up hospitals. Parikh also wrote that many children aren’t getting vaccinated. She said she would encourage all eligible to get vaccinated and recommended physical separation from classrooms.
“We will see more outbreaks and cases. We saw an increase in viral infections, hospitalizations, and school reopenings even before the pandemic. Parikh said that a pandemic involving a highly contagious virus is like adding fuel to an already burning fire. “Children require in-person learning. Let’s help them get that safely.”