On Monday, The New York Post posted an article by Dr. Joel Zinberg, MD, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and director of public health and wellness at the Paragon Health Institute. The article deals with the benefits and costs of masking children.
The article reports:
States around the nation, including Democratic ones such as New York and California, are lifting indoor mask mandates. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention refuses to budge. It continues to recommend indoor masking in communities with substantial or high transmission — essentially the entire country — a stance that is particularly exasperating and harmful in regards to schools. The agency recommends masking all students ages 2 and older.
…Two days later, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief White House medical adviser, echoed his overcautious colleague, telling CNN that ending school masking would be “risky.”
Yet, whatever rationales were previously advanced to justify school mask mandates have long since disappeared and the benefit of masking children is outweighed by the cost.
It has been known almost since the beginning of the epidemic that children were not at high risk from the coronavirus. There was no reason to mask them in the first place (particularly since the mask does not keep the virus out and children have a tendency to touch the mask).
The article continues:
Other studies primarily done before vaccine approval confirm that students are not causing transmission in schools. Staff-to-staff transmission is more common than transmission from students. The correlation between school outbreaks and COVID incidence in the community suggests that adults infected in the community pose a far greater risk to students and staff than students do.
It is no surprise that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control recommends against masks for children 12 and younger. It only recommends masks for older students and adults living in areas with high COVID community transmission.
Walensky (CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky) has repeatedly cited an Arizona study that found schools without mask mandates were 3.5 times more likely to have COVID outbreaks than schools that required masks. Yet, as David Zweig showed in the Atlantic, multiple experts agree the study was so rife with methodological problems that its conclusions are worthless.
The article concludes:
Masks always have been unrealistic for schoolkids. As the European Centre noted, children “may have a lower tolerance to wearing masks for extended periods of time, and may fail to wear them properly.”
Moreover, masks may interfere with children’s ability to recognize and interact with their peers and teachers and could stunt their development. Mask proponents often cite a study showing that children have no more difficulty reading the emotions of people wearing masks than people wearing sunglasses. But that study found children’s ability to infer emotions were more accurate with uncovered faces compared to covering with masks or sunglasses.
Besides, when do children encounter an environment where everyone is wearing sunglasses?
Earlier in the pandemic, masks may have facilitated a return to in-person learning. But now there is widespread vaccine immunity and natural immunity after recovery, particularly with the highly transmissible Omicron variant. New monoclonal antibodies and oral antivirals significantly reduce the risk of severe COVID illness. And case numbers are rapidly falling. These developments, combined with the dubious evidence supporting school mask mandates, mean that the time has come for the CDC to change its guidelines.
It will take years to assess the damage masks and at-home learning have done to our children.