EDITORIAL: Listen to the physicians and require masks in school

·2 min read

Aug. 18—First it was the American Academy of Pediatrics, representing 67,000 pediatricians across the country. The group in mid-July recommended universal masking in schools, meaning all students older than 2 years and all school staff would wear face masks at school unless medical or developmental conditions prohibit use.

Then it was the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The government agency in early August updated its COVID-19 guidance to recommend the same thing: masks in K-12 schools for students and staff, regardless of vaccination status.

Now the message is coming from more than 100 local physicians from Mercy, Freeman Health System, Via Christi in Kansas, Kansas City University and other area clinics and health practices.

"To keep our kids in school and healthy," they wrote in a letter sent Tuesday night to area school boards and superintendents, "universal masking for pre-K through grade 12 must be required for all students, teachers, staff and visitors on the school campus no matter vaccination status."

Most school districts in this area have opted for different masking policies for the upcoming school year, making wearing masks largely voluntary.

That's a mistake. Such relaxed rules in the schools are almost certain to lead to infections once classes begin, especially among those who are too young to get a vaccine.

It's already been happening. As the local doctors note in their letter, two school districts that didn't mandate masking — the Marion School District in Arkansas and Brevard Public Schools in Florida — started classes and quickly found themselves with hundreds of positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff and thousands more under quarantine.

It would be naive to assume the same couldn't happen here.

All of the data, science, evidence and expert knowledge support the wearing of masks as a safe and effective mitigation effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the delta variant, which studies suggest is more transmissible and leaves children with more serious illness.

That recommendation has been made time and again. Now it's been urged by people you know and trust: the doctors who live in your own neighborhood and care for you and your family.

School boards would be deliberately and willfully foolish and reckless to dismiss this request.

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