Masks for kids in school is the recommendation
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Amid mixed national messaging on COVID-19 and masks, the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends students wear masks to school during the upcoming school year.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance recommends masks for the unvaccinated, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests universal mask wearing, regardless of vaccination status.
Melissa Wervey Arnold, CEO for the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said getting kids back in class is crucial for their mental, physical, emotional and academic health. She contended masks are the safest route, since kids younger than 12 cannot get a COVID vaccine.
"Kids themselves might not spread the virus as readily as we've seen adults do it, or might not have the same negative health consequences," Wervey Arnold explained. "We still know that they can spread it, and they can spread it to people who are more vulnerable, especially the older population."
Meanwhile, Senate Bill 209 was introduced last week to prohibit schools and businesses in Ohio from mandating masks. An exception would be made for those with certain health conditions.
Wervey Arnold said regrettably, mask wearing during the pandemic has become politicized.
"It became an argument around freedom versus public health," Wervey Arnold observed. "And people have the right to their own personal choices, but sometimes those personal choices harm others. In that case, it's our opinion, you really have to focus on public health then."
Ohio's public health order requiring a facial covering in public settings expired in June. Wervey Arnold pointed out some kids did not mind wearing them, and for many others it simply became routine. She noted pediatricians noticed a difference masks made in preventing COVID and other illnesses.
"We saw a really low rate of flu infection this past year, and other things like RSV and other respiratory infections," Wervey Arnold recounted. "As the mask mandates have lifted, we're seeing a lot of ill visits from families. "
Gov. Mike DeWine indicated he does not plan to implement another mask mandate. He recently signed a bill banning public schools from requiring vaccines that have not received full FDA approval, which the COVID-19 vaccines have not.