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Letter to the Editor: Masks in school — time to go?

Schools in Plumas County are currently mandating masking of all students ages 2 years and up to reduce the spread of Covid-19. This is the current CDC recommendation. This recommendation is at odds with many other states, and countries around the world.

An article in the “Atlantic Magazine” yesterday titled “The Case Against Masks at School” lays out some very convincing science and data based reasoning to free our children from masking all day at school. I have included a link to the article below. The essay is written by three medical professionals (one of which works at our own National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) headed by the well known Dr Anthony Fauci. Essentially, the authors reviewed the available science on masking (including the CDC’s own studies). They were looking for science based evidence on which to base these mandates. In their words, they “came up empty handed.” The CDC’s own studies were either statistically flawed or showed no measurable benefit to masking school students.

The authors believe, and I agree, that at this point in the pandemic the mitigation measures that we require of our students should be “justified based on solid evidence”. This is especially true as we see mounting evidence that masking students may have adverse short and long term effects on learning and emotional development. Studies are providing more and more evidence that continuous mask wearing in schools can be a barrier to learning, speech, and language development. It may inhibit emotion recognition and contribute to delayed development and behavioral problems.

Now some schools are turning to N95 masks (Los Angeles County) but these are not very appropriate for school aged kids. N95 masks are much less comfortable, require a very tight seal, and are difficult to fit and wear properly, especially for children. These masks should be reserved for individual students needing extra protection from contracting COVID, not mandated on the entire population.

The authors conclude that “imposing on millions of children an intervention that provides little discernible benefit, on the grounds that we have not yet gathered solid evidence of its negative effects, violates the most basic tenet of medicine: First do no harm.”

I strongly urge our county leaders in government, public health, and education to read this article and do some independent research of their own. Here is the link: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/01/kids-masks-schools-weak-science/621133/

With the miniscule risk to children posed by COVID infection and the effective mitigation measures available to reduce risk to others (vaccines, therapeutics, and individual opt-in masking) it’s time to free our students to learn, flourish, and grow.

Sam Wilbanks

Sierra Valley

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