The Atlantic: The Downsides of Masking Younger College students Are Actual
Thoughtful piece from The Atlantic. Are masks compulsory in your children’s schools? If so, to what extent?
The disadvantages of masking young students are real
The educational cost of face coverings is far better known than the benefits of mandating.
By Vinay Prasad About the author: Vinay Prasad, hematologist and oncologist, is an adjunct professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UC San Francisco.
Scientists have a duty to strive for honesty. And on the question of whether children in schools – especially in preschools and elementary schools – should wear masks, I conclude the following: At least at this point in time, the potential educational damage of a mask requirement is much more solid than its possible benefit in terms of spreading COVID-19 in schools to stop. To justify the continued masking of school children – with no end date in sight – we need to prove that masks benefit children and at what age. States and communities that are considering masking policies for security reasons should recognize that excessive caution comes at a cost, while the benefits are uncertain.
For most healthy adults, masks pose little inconvenience in public indoor spaces. But children – who, even amid the worrying rise in the Delta variant, are experiencing serious consequences of COVID-19 at much lower rates than people in older age groups – have different needs and vulnerabilities as adults. Early childhood is a crucial phase when people develop cultural, language, and social skills, including the ability to recognize emotions on other people’s faces. Social interactions with friends, parents, and caregivers are an essential part of promoting the growth and wellbeing of children.
Cloth masks filter some, if not most, aerosols, so they can catch some of the virus particles that are exhaled. Newly published results from a large study in rural Bangladesh found that the widespread use of surgical masks by adults resulted in a significant reduction in the spread of symptomatic COVID-19. (The effects of cloth masks were more ambiguous, and the study did not include children.) But the question that educators and parents face is whether or not a policy of mandatory masking makes school safer than a policy of optional masking the difference is sufficient to justify the imposition of children. Read more under Atlantic.