Opinion: Comal ISD Parents, Send Your Kids Back to School Wearing Masks
by Faye Crowell, MHS, PA-C
Mother of 7-year-old Specht Elementary student and physician assistant practicing allergy/immunology
The COVID-19 pandemic is not over. I am finding myself in situations recently where it is apparent that many Americans are under the impression that because some things have improved we are out of the woods. I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news: We have entered a new phase of the pandemic.
We cannot burn the masks and cuddle up with strangers in packed venues again just yet.
Although down from peaks last summer and this January, we are now seeing numbers of cases and hospitalizations rise again both nationally and locally. Cases are up 50% in the past week in the U.S., and the new, 200%-more-transmissible Delta variant accounts for 83% of sequenced cases across the country.
In the next few weeks our children will be returning to the classroom and the world looks different. Thankfully, we have safe and effective vaccines for adolescents and adults, but most children will not have been vaccinated against COVID-19 when school starts, nor will they be eligible to be.
We do not yet know if the Delta variant is more dangerous for children than other strains, and the rate of infection in children is increasing. It will continue to do so as adults and adolescents are vaccinated.
Last year, the spread in schools was limited primarily due to widespread masking, but there has been a great deal of discussion around lifting mask requirements as of late.
We know that a layered approach to making schools safe is the best kind of approach. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a large group of physicians dedicated to the health of all American children, on Monday provided the public with specific recommendations on how to do just that. Those recommendations are listed here.
We know that universal masking is an efficacious, safe, and low-cost way to reduce the transmission of illnesses, including COVID-19.
Most children will not be vaccinated when school starts, and most schools do not have a system in place to monitor the vaccination status of individuals on campus. Thus, the AAP has recommended universal masking for schools this fall as a significant component of their layered approach.
I know that this is not what many families want to hear. A mask is an inconvenience—but a worsening pandemic that necessitates school closures and results in hospitalized children and family members, long-term health effects, and death is far more inconvenient.
Unfortunately, Gov. Greg Abbott has stripped the ability of our public schools to mandate masks. In light of this, I implore all parents to please choose to mask their children indoors at school. Doing this benefits their health, their neighbors, and the nation’s.
The AAP is a devoted group of experts on children and their health. They agree that children’s physical, emotional, and mental health benefits significantly from in-person learning, and I think that most parents would agree with this.
As parents, the safety and well-being of our children is the most important thing to us—we shouldn’t need a mandate to make us do the right thing for them. Let’s choose to send our children to school in masks until we can get the majority of the community vaccinated against COVID-19.