Less than a week after the Maryland Board of Education decided to implement mask mandates in local school systems, a group of lawmakers heard from education officials and health experts about combating COVID-19 in educational settings.
Dr. Daniel Sampson, professor and director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Dr. Tara Kirk Sell, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told members of the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee they believe masks work at preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Sampson said the issue was convincing others.
“I never would have predicted how controversial masks have became,” Sampson told the committee. “It’s one of the few things you can do. It’s not a huge infringement. It works pretty well.”
Sell said with every county in the state currently reporting high rates of transmission, she supports a mask mandate.
Republican Sen. Jason Gallion asked where the “off-ramp” was with COVID-19.
“It looks like COVID in some form and with different variants is going to be here for the foreseeable future,” Gallion said. “Where do we get to a point where we say, ‘OK, this is something that’s going to be here like influenza and we can start backing off some of the things like mask and such.'”
Sell said she agreed that COVID-19 would be an ongoing problem for some time to come.
“When we see that case numbers go down, or we see that we don’t have a lot of cases that require hospitalizations, then I think that’s when we start to say we want it to be to the point where it’s more like the flu,” Sell said. “It’s not there right now. It can be like that if we have more vaccinations.”
Convincing teachers and students to get vaccinated is going to be a challenge, Salmon said.
“I think the argument for teachers is easier than if it is for children, because it is a workplace issue and therefore a requirement for employment versus a child who is a vulnerable population,” Salmon said. “We also have less data on children, so I think it’s harder for vaccines than for masks.”
Republican Sen. Bryan Simonaire asked Sell if a “one-size fits all” for the state is good policy.
Sell said it was a difficult question.
“I think at some point having a little bit more flexibility is good, but if it’s an overall situation where we’re not seeing the appropriate measures being put in place, then a larger broader brush could be applied. “
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Original Author: Kim Jarrett, The Center Square contributor