When we make decisions, as the School District of Philadelphia recently did to force children, starting May 23rd, to once again cover their faces for entire school days for weeks on end, we need to consider two things.
When we make decisions, as the School District of Philadelphia recently did to force children, starting May 23rd, to once again cover their faces for entire school days for weeks on end, we need to consider two things: the risk we might be mitigating and the harm we might be causing.
First, what’s the harm?
For some reason the idea has been propagated that long term masking has “no downsides.”
This is obviously not true, even just based on common sense: it’s uncomfortable, it hinders communication, and for people with communication challenges like hearing or speech issues, or people on the spectrum, it can make life extremely difficult.
But many scientific studies have borne this out, with findings that show long term masking causing serious harm to all people, and children in particular.
One study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (April 2021) reviewed 44 studies and 65 publications, and concluded that daily mask wearing causes “psychological and physical deterioration” and “Mask-Induced Exhaustion Syndrome (MIES).”
A parents’ organization in California, Protection of the Educational Rights of Kids, lists the following harms of masking children, backed up by scientific evidence you can find on their website, perk-group.com/masks-harm-children.
Their main points include:
Long term masking for children risks psychological injuries and hinders development; masks are dangerous for children with some pre-existing medical conditions and disabilities; medical masks raise carbon dioxide levels and lower oxygen levels in the blood, and should not be worn during exercise. They also contain chemical cocktails that are toxic, can increase viral load and severity of disease and can collect and colonize viruses, bacteria, microbes and mold.
Even if only a fraction of these harms are true, it is important to weigh those harms against the risk we think we’re mitigating by masking children.
So what are the risks?
Two years into this pandemic we have more data than we originally did. And we now know that the risk to children is far smaller than most parents realize.
According to current data, COVID deaths for children are extremely rare, and account for less than .28 percent of all COVID deaths. COVID also very rarely causes children to be hospitalized - with only 1 to 1.5 percent of children’s cases requiring hospitalization.
Over the past 26 months, a total of 1,045 children under age 18, out of approximately 73 million across the U.S., have died of Covid. This means that children under 18 have less than a two in 100,000 chance of dying of Covid, which is lower than their risk of dying of child abuse or car accidents.
The data show that about 19% of all Covid cases reported in the U.S. are in children, yet there are almost no hospitalizations or deaths in this age group.
Recent data also show that more than 75% of children have been exposed to the virus, and this exposure confers at least as much immunity as vaccination.
So this would suggest that the number of Covid cases detected in schools is irrelevant in terms of public health mandates. Even if there is a “surge” in cases, there will not be a corresponding increase in severe illness or death.
Last but not least: On May 19, city health officials said a mask mandate “was no longer warranted because vaccinations and natural immunity from prior infections meant COVID cases were less frequently resulting in serious illness.”
What changed? Why, after two long years of living with these mask mandates, do we suddenly need to mask our kids again?
For parents concerned about their children’s overall health and well being during and after COVID, this is an important question.