If There Was Any Benefit To Masking Kids, It’s Long Since Disappeared
States around the nation, including Democratic ones such as New York and California, are lifting indoor mask mandates. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention refuses to budge. It continues to recommend indoor masking in communities with substantial or high transmission — essentially the entire country — a stance that is particularly exasperating and harmful in regards to schools. The agency recommends masking all students ages 2 and older.
In congressional testimony, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky insisted that school mask mandates continue. The following day, at a White House briefing, Walensky, after acknowledging rapidly falling COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths, said the agency would reconsider its guidelines, but gave no indication any update would apply to schools.
Two days later, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief White House medical adviser, echoed his overcautious colleague, telling CNN that ending school masking would be “risky.”
Yet, whatever rationales were previously advanced to justify school mask mandates have long since disappeared and the benefit of masking children is outweighed by the cost.
From the start, it was clear that COVID-19 posed little threat to children. On a March 10, 2020 — one day before the World Health Organization declared a pandemic — Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, noted that only 2% of COVID-19 cases were in ages 19 and below and that they were not developing serious illness.
COVID-19, she said, is, “a disease that affects adults. And most seriously older adults. Starting at age 60, there is an increasing risk of disease and the risk increases with age. The highest risk of serious illness and death is in people older than 80 years. People with serious underlying health conditions also are more likely to develop serious outcomes including death.”
Nothing has changed since then. Less than two-tenths of 1% of COVID-19 deaths have been in people 17 and younger. School-age kids (ages 5-17) are currently just 2.7% of COVID hospitalizations.
Older students also face little risk — the 18 to 29 group only accounts for 0.8% of COVID deaths. In contrast, more than three-quarters of COVID deaths are in those 65 and older.
Children appear to be less susceptible to infection than adults, have milder cases, and may be less likely to transmit infection than adults. With the currently predominant Omicron variant, children’s generally mild illnesses are even milder.
There is little evidence that masking students protects others. A study in Sweden which kept schools open without mask mandates found that teachers had no increased risk of severe COVID-19 infection as compared to other occupations.
Other studies primarily done before vaccine approval confirm that students are not causing transmission in schools. Staff-to-staff transmission is more common than transmission from students. The correlation between school outbreaks and COVID incidence in the community suggests that adults infected in the community pose a far greater risk to students and staff than students do.
It is no surprise that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control recommends against masks for children 12 and younger. It only recommends masks for older students and adults living in areas with high COVID community transmission.
Read the full article at The New York Post.