Sunday, January 30, 2022

Now Leftists Want Masks Off Our Children

The political winds have changes, showing --- once again --- just how craven is the progressive left.

See Michelle Goldberg, at the New York Times, "Let Kids Take Their Masks Off After the Omicron Surge":

Elissa Perkins, the director of infectious disease management in the emergency department of the Boston Medical Center, told me she spent most of 2020 “imploring everybody I could in every forum that I could to mask.” In the beginning, she said, this was to flatten the curve, and later to protect the vulnerable. But masking, she said, “was intended to be a short-term intervention,” and she believes we haven’t talked enough about the drawbacks of mandating it for kids long-term.

“If we accept that we don’t want masks to be required in our schools forever, we have to decide when is the right time to remove them,” she said. “And that’s a conversation that we’re not really having.”

At least, people in deep blue areas weren’t having it until recently. But as the Omicron wave begins to ebb, that conversation — sometimes tentatively and sometimes acrimoniously — has begun. This week Perkins co-wrote a Washington Post essay calling for schools to make masking optional. The Atlantic published an article titled, “The Case Against Masks at School.”

“Coming off the Omicron surge, I think there’s going to be a tipping point with more and more people questioning does this need to continue in schools,” said Erin Bromage, an associate professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. Bromage worked with the governor of Rhode Island to reopen schools there, and later helped schools in southern Massachusetts reopen. He believes in the importance of Covid mitigations, but his views on school masking have evolved in recent months. There comes a point, he said, “at which the reduction in risk that comes from the mask is balanced or begins to be outweighed by the detrimental side of things that come with masking.”

The debate about masks in schools can quickly turn vicious because it pits legitimate interests against one another. Many people who are immunocompromised, or live with those who are, understandably fear that getting rid of mandates will make them more vulnerable. But keeping kids in masks month after month also inflicts harm, even if it’s not always easy to measure.

“I think it would be naïve to not acknowledge that there are downsides of masks,” said Perkins. “I know some of that data is harder to come by because those outcomes are not as discrete as Covid or not-Covid. But from speaking with pediatricians, from speaking with learning specialists, and also from speaking with parents of younger children especially, there are significant issues related to language acquisition, pronunciation, things like that. And there are very clear social and emotional side effects in the older kids.”

That’s why I believe that mandatory school masking should end when coronavirus rates return to pre-Omicron levels. I fully accept that, in future surges, masks might have to go back on, but that’s all the more reason to get them off as soon as possible, to give students some reprieve.

Otherwise, I fear that, at least in very liberal areas, a combination of extreme risk aversion and inertia means that school masking will persist indefinitely. The chief executive of the Prince George’s County public schools in Maryland recently downplayed the idea of a future without masks, saying: “The only off-ramp I want is the one where Covid no longer exists. I don’t think that that off-ramp will exist.” I hope this attitude isn’t widespread, but if it is, it will be incumbent for progressive parents desperate for an off-ramp to push back.

There’s some question about how well masks in school really work; many studies are confounded, since communities with school mask mandates tend to adopt other Covid mitigation measures as well. Much of The Atlantic’s “The Case Against Masks at School” is devoted to reviewing studies either conducted or cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it concludes that the “overall takeaway from these studies — that schools with mask mandates have lower Covid-19 transmission rates than schools without mask mandates — is not justified by the data that have been gathered.”

The fact that experts can poke holes in some studies of masking does not mean that masks don’t make a difference...

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