Doctors say schools can make masks optional

Schools can “finally safely make masks optional for students and staff” with the CDC’s new guidelines, opine infectious disease physicians in The Washington Post.

Respirators and other high-quality masks are highly effective at protecting their wearers, regardless of what people around them are doing.

As a result, schools can finally safely make masks optional for students and staff.

Everyone now has tools to protect themselves from severe disease, or any infection, if they so choose. Making this shift [to optional masking] also respects that people will have different risk tolerance levels

The writers were “strongly supportive of universal masking policies in the fall of 2020,” noting they were a “necessary safety net” then so that many schools could reopen. In 2022, though, there are “many more tools” for protective purposes outside of mandatory masking that policies should reflect, the authors conclude.

In The Atlantic, two other doctors and an infectious-disease scientist who works for the National Institutes of Health make the case against masks at school, stating that the variety of studies they reviewed on the intervention lack evidence to “justify the CDC’s no-end-in-sight mask guidance for the very-low-risk pediatric population, particularly post-vaccination.”

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.

Epidemiologist Vinay Prasad at the University of California-San Francisco wrote recently for Tablet: “This [mandated school masking] isn’t a matter of protecting children, their teachers, or their grandparents; it’s delusional and dangerous cultlike behavior.”

The U.K. government recently commissioned a report on the efficacy of masks in school settings, which failed to identify any clear evidence in favor of this practice. Moreover, the authors write:

“Wearing face coverings may have physical side effects and impair face identification, verbal and non-verbal communication between teacher and learner. This means there are downsides to face coverings for pupils and students, including detrimental impacts on communication in the classroom.”

It also has ushered in “punitive mask culture,” with older students given detentions and suspensions due to “mask slippage” or improper mask-wearing. For younger students, some must eat in total silence during lunch, and others have had their recess and gym time cut back to avoid “increased exhalation.”

In Edina, high school Principal Andy Beaton told parents that teachers, at his direction, will send students out of class for not wearing their mask properly, reported Alpha News.

Students who violate the mask mandate more than once in the same day will be “subject to a suspension or dismissal home for the day.”

Wearing a mask over the mouth but not the nose will also count as a violation.

“On a cumulative basis, if you are consistently not wearing your mask appropriately in the hallway and we’ve already given you a warning, then you are subject to a suspension,” Beaton reiterated.

Reason Foundation’s Jacob Sullum notes that while there are studies that show “schools with mask mandates can operate ‘safely,’ they do not show that mask mandates are necessary to achieve that goal. Data from FloridaTennesseeNorth DakotaTexas, the U.K., and Spain suggest they are not.”