We are Failing Our Children on Masking
American children are dying at a faster rate from Omicron than died from Covid at any other time during the pandemic and this is happening at a time when schools everywhere are removing mask mandates. Some 550 American children have died from Covid already in 2022, compared with 1017 children who died in the preceding 22 months, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC
New research from the National Institute of Health (NIH) demonstrates that schools with mandatory masking during the Delta surge had approximately 72% fewer cases of in-school transmission of Covid. All 50 states have now announced an end to mask mandates.
According to the NIH, which studied more than 1.1 million students and more than 157,000 staff attending in-person school across nine states, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Missouri, California, Washington, Georgia, Tennessee, Kansas and Texas, mandatory masking works best to cut the transmission of Covid.
And while optional masking helped lower cases, it was not as effective as mandatory masking.
“School districts with optional masking had approximately 3.6 times the rate of in-school COVID-19 cases when compared to schools with mandatory masking. These data also show that mandatory masking was associated with a 72% reduction of in-school COVID-19 cases, compared to districts with optional masking,” according to the NIH.
While the study was conducted during the Delta wave, rather than the current Omicron wave, it shows that masking is crucial in communities with high infection rates and with highly-transmittable variants. Omicron is more transmissible than Delta was.
Many parents are left understandably confused about masking, for themselves and for their kids. Given the low rate of vaccination in many communities, and despite confusing direction from the CDC, most doctors are advising parents to continue masking their children indoors. Vaccinated and boosted adults without any underlying health issues are making decisions whether to mask or not based on their aptitude for risk. Knowing that children are increasingly facing the worst effects of Covid might help us as a society make better decisions.