School masking not so black and white

Lead editorial in the Journal Opinion, Dec. 29, 2021

As the Haverhill community becomes embroiled in a school mask dispute, we need to keep our emotions in check and not let the broader cultural and political divide over Covid dominate the discussion.

Despite recommendations by the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics, universal masking in schools is not necessarily an effective deterrent against Covid transmission among students.

A careful reader will note there is a lot of qualification in the previous paragraph. That is exactly the point.

While there is some evidence to suggest that masking in schools is an effective mitigation measure, it is not backed by the most rigorous research. Unfortunately, we really do not know if the benefits of masks in schools outweigh the costs. They may. They may not.

In August, the online education reporting outlet Chalkbeat published a story exploring the use of masks in schools:

“In short, existing studies focusing on schools — including those cited on both sides of the debate — are strikingly limited. Little if any research has definitively shown what effect masks have on COVID spread in schools.”

Also in August, New York magazine took on the same subject addressing an “ambitious and groundbreaking” CDC study of Covid transmission in 90,000 elementary school students in Georgia. It found masking then-unvaccinated teachers and proper air ventilation reduced Covid transmission. But, “distancing, hybrid models, classroom barriers, HEPA filters, and, most notably, requiring student masking were each found to not have a statistically significant benefit.”

Both Chalkbeat and New York noted that masking children has it downsides, particularly for younger children and challenged learners.

So why do our nation’s public health authorities insist on masking in schools? It’s a good question. Again, it’s one Chalkbeat sought to answer: “At the same time, there is a broader body of evidence collected in other settings that suggests that masks help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases like COVID-19. That appears to be what’s driving health authorities to recommend masking in the classroom, alongside a general desire to minimize the risk to children and communities when cases are rising.”

There is logic to that approach. Whatever care we take for ourselves as adults, we should double, triple, and more for our children. But children are not adults. Schools are not a workplace, a concert hall, or a restaurant for miniature adults.

While masking may appear to be a low-cost strategy among adults, it has serious trade-offs for children in schools, particularly for those who are still learning to interpret facial expressions and social skills.

Further, children generally have fewer adverse health outcomes, less severe health outcomes, and lower levels of transmission during this pandemic.

But this editorial’s point is not about whether we favor or disfavor masks in the classroom. It’s about guarding against certitude particularly when that belief rigidly adheres to a political viewpoint.

Turning to Twitter to post a measured and reasonable critique of the Haverhill school board decision, a Dartmouth College professor wrote, “I can no longer count the tributaries that feed into this river of murder.”

Good grief. A Greek chorus could not conjure so much useless melodrama.

Prior to Dec. 13, Haverhill did not have a universal mask policy. It only had a targeted masking policy. Some students wore masks some of the time.

It was a messy policy with dubious results. There have been 85 cases at the three Haverhill schools this year. That strikes us as a lot. The policy was not effective.

Writing for New York, David Zweig concluded that adult vaccination and ventilation remain the best options for stopping Covid transmission in schools. We agree.

The Journal-Opinion, published in Bradford, is the weekly community newspaper for Vermont and New Hamsphire’s upper Connecticut River Valley. Subscriptions available for both online and print editions.

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12 replies »

  1. 2 years of this moron show. Enough already. It’s the sniffles for kids, the adults should be happy with their bogus jabs, the tests are mostly false positives and everyone and their mother has by now been exposed to the Rona.

    Masking kids is sadism.

    Please stop this mass formation psychosis. The Rona is now a mental disease.

      • Some.

        But there were an awful lot of excess deaths in 2020 when there were no vaccines.

        The quite likely man-altered disease causing virus that is now running rampant than ever before (with many variants now) must have been a much more major cause of the excess deaths in 2020.

        Somewhere between 1 in 3 to 1 in 6 who contract Covid have gotten Long Haul Covid, which is a terrible disease.

        The virus itself is pretty nasty.

        Data shows that the vaccines are much more dangerous than is being let on, also.

        And has now turned into a contributing factor.

      • Tim the reason they have long haul covid is because their medical “professionals” refused to treat them. Early treatment saves lives. Why is the medical community en masse telling people to go home and get over it??????? There are therapies and treatments that are being banned, and the only “approved” treatment is a vaccine that has a better chance of kiiling you than the actual disease???????

      • It is a travesty that the Medical Industrial Complex in the US has denied this country’s citizens the ability to use Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroqine and other commonly used drugs that have a much safer track record than these experimental vaccines are building.

        I know of no data that shows how “early treatment” impacts Long Covid.

        A lot of people that get Long Haul have mild cases symptomatically.

        So I’m not sure how much early treatment would impact Long Haul.

        “Early treatment” still doesn’t stop the spread or further mutation of the virus, however.

        I agree the people should definitely have early treatment options that a lot of other countries have applied with some success, but until we can stop the spread, everything else is just a bandaid.

    • Face masks don’t work–it’s not a virus anyway–and many people are getting bacterial pneumonia from wearing them amongst 375 other ways that face masks are known to harm the wearer.

      • It is a straight up LIE to write “it’s not a virus anyway.”

        If you can’t comprehend and admit to yourself that basic FACT, why should anyone listen to your opinion on masks?

        “It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

  2. They are conditioning compliance….plain and simple. And if they really cared about lowering covid cases in schools, “vaccinated ” children would be included in test to stay as its been proven “vaccinated ” individuals can still contract and transmit the virus. John Tague, the fwsu superintendent told me they are not testing “vaccinated ” kids because they would all test positive on the rapid antigen tests at the advice of Secretary of education Dan French. This is completely false, as we all know as the health officials have asked ALL, not just “unvaccinated ” kids to test before recent holidays and returning to school post break. Either our superintendent, the Secretary of education, or both are completely out of touch with the science or are purposely manipulating data at the benefit of their totalitarian powers or bigpharma $. Seems like the only kids left at school are “vaccinated “. Could this be an initial attempt to mandate the dangerous mrna injections in the gov schools? Someone needs to look into this. I know my children feel ostracized, do yours?

  3. Did you notice the picture of the girl with the improperly worn and therefore ineffective mask? Gaps by the cheeks allowing breath to bypass any filtering provided by the mask.

    • It’slike wearing a condom with a hole in it and then when your girlfriend gets pregnant saying, “See! Condoms don’t work!”

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