Sound science is essential in decision-making by school boards for the current and future public health pandemics. That is why school boards cannot decide about masking based on myths or beliefs like:
Fact: COVID cases among children across the US are up as students return to school. In August, days into a new school year, thousands of students across the country were forced to quarantine after schools reopened and case loads in children jumped. Several schools in the state have already announced closures in response to rising numbers. Pediatric hospitalizations also hit a record high last month, with 1,900 children hospitalized for COVID. The new school year is already a disaster: Thousands of students are quarantining as COVID-19 cases skyrocket among kids. Dr. Lee Savio Beers, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, explained that the week of July 25, 2021 “saw the largest week-over-week percentage increase in pediatric COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. The data show 71,726 COVID cases in children, almost double the 38,654 reported in the previous week. Simply stated, the Delta variant has created a new and pressing risk to children and adolescents across this country, as it has also done for unvaccinated adults.” The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reveals that as of September 2, over 5 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic. About 252,000 cases were added the week before Sept. 2, 2021, the largest number of child cases in a week since the pandemic began. After declining in early summer, child cases have increased exponentially, with over 750,000 cases added between August 5 and September 2.
- Myth #2: Masks don’t work.
Fact: Numerous studies have shown that universal masking has been an incredibly effective tool for controlling the spread of Covid-19 in schools. Studies, not opinion, of elementary school transmission last fall indicated that masks and social distancing lowered the spread of COVID-19. That science hasn’t changed, but Delta leaves even less room for error. “Compelling data now demonstrate that community mask wearing is an effective nonpharmacologic intervention to reduce the spread of this infection, especially as source control to prevent spread from infected persons, but also as protection to reduce wearers’ exposure to infection.”
- Myth #3: Masks can be dangerous to kids (e.g., masks restrict air flow, increase CO2 levels in the bloodstream, cause CO2 poisoning).
Fact: Masks are made of breathable material that does not block oxygen or trap CO2. Masks will not affect a child’s ability to focus or learn in school. The vast majority of children aged 2 or older can safely wear face masks for extended periods of time, such as the school day or at childcare. This includes children with many medical conditions.
- Myth #4: Face masks can lead to carbon dioxide poisoning (known as hypercapnia) from re-breathing the air we normally breathe out.
Fact: Carbon dioxide molecules are very tiny, even smaller than respiratory droplets. They cannot be trapped by breathable materials like cloth or disposable masks. In fact, surgeons wear tight fitting masks all day as part of their jobs, without any harm. Nor will wearing a mask interfere with a child’s lung development. This is because oxygen flows through and around the mask, while blocking the spray of spit and respiratory droplets that may contain the virus. Keeping a child’s lungs healthy is important, which includes preventing infections like COVID-19. “Scientific studies show that there’s no real important changes in C02 levels or oxygen levels even from wearing surgical masks. And fabric masks have better permeation for gases,” says Kirsten Koehler, an associate professor in environmental health and engineering at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland.
Fact: This is “absolutely not true.” explains Jennifer Burgess, D.O., a family medicine physician with Henry Ford Health System. “Wearing a mask will not affect your immune system in the least. Your body will continue to work as it’s meant to.”
Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health, emphasized there is no credible evidence masks are unsafe for children. She said the science is clear that face coverings have prevented the spread of COVID-19 in schools. “If we want to have kids in school this fall, and as many kids as we possibly can get into school, masks are a key component.” Doctor Gregory Demuri, Department of Pediatrics, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health has told schools that “[Making masks optional] is potentially disastrous. Masks should not be optional in a school setting. The CDC has spoken loud and clearly about this.” Further he explained that the delta variant of COVID-19 is easier to spread. “This variant looks like it’s much more contagious. We’re also seeing much more infection, many more infections in children with this variant.”
 Identifying airborne transmission as the dominant route for the spread of COVID-19 (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2020) https://www.pnas.org/content/117/26/14857
 Myths about COVID 19 and children, Department of Pediatrics, UW School of medicine and Public Health, https://www.pediatrics.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/UWSMPH-DoP-Myths-about-Covid-19-and-Children.pdf
 The new school year is already a disaster: Thousands of students are quarantining as COVID-19 cases skyrocket among kids (Aug. 14, 2021) https://www.businessinsider.com/schools-reopening-covid-cases-rising-quarantine-2021-8
 Children and COVID-19: State-Level Data Report (AAP Sept.2, 2021), https://www.aap.org/en/pages/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-infections/children-and-covid-19-state-level-data-report/
 Science Brief: Community Use of Cloth Masks to Control the Spread of SARS-CoV-2, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/science-briefs/masking-science-sars-cov2.html
 Mask Use and Ventilation Improvements to Reduce COVID-19 Incidence in Elementary Schools — Georgia, November 16–December 11, 2020, (CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report May 28, 2021), https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7021e1.htm
 Effectiveness of Mask Wearing to Control Community Spread of SARS-CoV-2 (JAMA Insights February 10, 2021), https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2776536
 Mask Mythbusters: 5 Common Misconceptions about Kids & Cloth Face Coverings, https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/COVID-19/Pages/Mask-Mythbusters.aspx
 Can face masks lower oxygen levels or weaken the immune system? Here’s what health experts say
 Debunking Mask Myths: Why It’s Important To Wear A Face Mask (Henry Ford Health Systems 2020), https://www.henryford.com/blog/2020/11/debunking-covid19-mask-myths; Fact check: Face masks do not weaken the immune system, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/05/08/fact-check-wearing-face-mask-does-not-weaken-immune-system/3088954001/
 Masks in schools: Federal guidance divides parents heading into new school year (Channel 3000 August 2, 2021), https://www.channel3000.com/i/masks-in-schools-federal-guidance-divides-parents-heading-into-new-school-year/
Rural Kenosha County school district says masks are optional (Show transcript Channel 12-WISN April 9, 2021), https://www.wisn.com/article/rural-kenosha-county-school-district-says-masks-are-optional/36081802