Pediatricians and health officials should present a united front against controversial state masking bans for schools

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To preserve personal learning and protect students in schools, pediatricians and public health officials should advocate for evidence-based mitigation strategies that can reduce transmission of COVID-19, especially the Delta variant, which overwhelmed pediatric emergency departments and hospitals, Yang et al argued. . . in a perspective published in the journal Pediatrics.

The authors propose that pediatricians and their associated institutions actively advocate masking in schools and debunk myths and misinformation during health and disease visits. In addition, they encourage physicians to develop and disseminate behavioral strategies to support children’s adherence to masks based on individual skills and needs. Finally, providers can work with educators at the local, district, state, and national levels to advocate for evidence-based masking policies.

“As pediatricians, it is our responsibility to advocate for universal masking to enable safe personal education for all children,” said Sarah Schaffer DeRoo, MD, a pediatrician at Children’s National Hospital and co-author of the perspective. “Children have easily adapted to masks during the pandemic and continuing this practice in schools is not a significant change from their recent experience.”

To date, nine states have enacted policies to ban masking in schools, disregarding evidence that masking is a critical preventative measure against COVID-19, Yang et al. wrote. The court overturned these mandates in four of the nine states because they either exceeded the governor’s executive powers or failed to comply with the law conferring executive powers. In other cases, judges have only placed a temporary block.

“Despite politically charged rhetoric and lawsuits making headlines, evidence shows that schools without mask mandates are more likely to have COVID-19 outbreaks,” said Y. Tony Yang, Sc.D., endowed professor of health policy and executive director of the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University, and lead author of Perspective. “Pediatricians in general have gained an increased level of trust from the public, suggesting that pediatricians who advocate for policies that promote sound medical and public health science are more likely than other advocates to generate the public and political will needed to evidence-based policy ideas, such as school mask mandates, a reality.”

Some places have found creative ways to get around the state ban on mask-wearing by changing school dress codes to include face coverings and finding loopholes that don’t apply to individual cities. Parents have also tried to challenge the policy in court, claiming that the ban on mask mandates violates federal anti-discrimination laws.

“Continued efforts are needed to ensure that schools can promote reasonable, evidence-based strategies to promote the health of their students, teachers and communities, and we, as advocates for children, are committed to strongly support these efforts,” according to Yang et al.

Mask mandates in schools curb infections, CDC studies show

More information:
Pediatrics (2021). DOI: 10.1542/peds.2021-054724 Provided by Children’s National Hospital

Quote: Pediatricians and health officials should unite front against controversial state mask bans for schools (2021, October 20), retrieved October 20, 2021 from state.html

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