Now is not the time for optional masks, writes parent and physician – St. Louis Call Newspapers
To the editor:
As a parent of two children in Lindbergh schools, the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has offered many challenges. As a pediatrician in rheumatology and immunology with a research focus on viral immunology, this pandemic has reshaped my career. I know first-hand that while children are at lower risk of severe COVID-19, they are not at no risk. We are seeing a rise in cases and increased gatherings during the holidays will increase cases at a time when area hospitals are already stressed. This makes the recent decision by Lindbergh schools to make masks optional difficult to reconcile.
Overwhelming evidence from multiple studies show that masks reduce transmission. In addition to the reduction in cases, masking has the educational advantage of keeping our kids in school as well as the economic advantage of keeping parents at work. Moreover, no studies have shown significant negative consequences of masking.
Vaccination rates are increasing in kids in our community, but I see parents in clinic every week who are waiting to discuss vaccination with a medical professional first. Until vaccination rates are higher, keeping masks mandatory gives medical professionals time to have these important discussions with parents.
Until now, Lindbergh schools have been a partner to the health care community in instituting data driven policies to keep our kids safe. The decision to make masks optional creates an unnecessary risk for our children. Just like the medical professionals who have given so much during this pandemic and care so much for the community, leadership within school districts have a responsibility to institute policies that protect the health of our children.
As vaccination rates increase we could soon be in a position to make masks optional, but now is not the right time.
As a physician and virologist, I would urge the Lindbergh leadership, and all area school districts to maintain evidence-based policy including mandatory masking.