Pediatricians join call for masking in schools as conservatives chafe at governor’s ‘mandate’

With many students returning to classes later this month, the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics says all children, regardless of vaccine status, should wear masks inside school.

“This is based on the observation that the number of COVID-19 infections is rapidly increasing in the Commonwealth, the Delta variant is more contagious than previous virus strains and can be spread by even those who have been vaccinated, and face masks have been scientifically proven to be effective, well tolerated and safe,” the group, which represents more than 1,300 members across Virginia, said in a statement.

Last week, Governor Ralph Northam said school districts are expected to impose universal masking, an announcement that came just weeks after his administration left decisions about COVID-19 precautions at school in local hands and after some major school systems said that they would make masks optional. Northam said a state law passed early this year requires school systems to provide personalized instruction and adhere “to the extent possible” to all safety recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which last week announced it recommends universal. masking in schools, regardless of vaccination status.

Some Virginia Republicans have said Northam is misrepresenting the legislation passed with bipartisan support and angered by what a GOP state senator and Republican governor candidate Glenn Youngkin called a de facto “mask mandate.” .

Make no mistake – Governor Northam goes too far and implements a mask mandate.

We must respect parents’ decisions about their own children. If parents, teachers and children want to wear a mask, they can – but there should NOT be a mask mandate for the entire school.

— Glenn Youngkin (@GlennYoungkin) August 6, 2021

State Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, an OB-GYN who sponsored the legislation to reopen schools, told a Conservative radio host Monday morning that Northam’s statement amounted to “leadership misconduct”.

“I believe the governor wants a mask mandate, but he’s not willing to call himself, so he’s found an indirect way of claiming it’s someone else’s decision,” she said. “A few weeks ago he told school departments that you can decide for yourself. … On Thursday he dropped the bomb that this law could be a problem for them and that they should contact their legal counsel.”

When asked by the Mercury last week whether she thought children should wear masks in schools, Dunnavant did not provide a clear answer. “Parents and schools need to work together and consider the latest information and guidelines as well as each child’s individual challenges to make a decision that ensures each child receives personalized education,” she said.

Dunnvant told WRVA on Monday that “the conversation we should have as parents, teachers, is what the CDC guidelines say. We may have to think about doing this for a month, but we understand some of your kids can’t. seeing if having fear or not being able to learn and really personal is the most important so let’s work together not under a mandate but in a partnership let’s make a community agreement where we figure this out together and do what’s best for our kids, but that is not a mandate.”

The Virginia chapter of the Pediatric Association said keeping schools open “is best achieved through effective mitigation strategies, including vaccinating eligible children and wearing face masks by all children except those with a medical exemption determined by a physician.” adding that increasing vaccination remains a parallel priority.

“If we continue to use a simple key mitigation layer (masks) at a time of substantial spread of disease in the community, it will reduce illness and quarantine and keep more children healthy and in school, allowing families to continue working as well. “

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