August 6, 2021
Yesterday I was able to participate in an appreciation breakfast for the teachers in our local school district. This is an annual event put on by the women in our community. While the women arrived early to make sure the meal was ready, I snuck in around 7:10. I was not worried because I had no cooking duties, and the meal was not scheduled to begin until 7:30. When I arrived, I was surprised to see the parking lot was full. When I came into the kitchen the women were efficiently cooking scrambled eggs and ham, the tater tots were coming out of the oven, and the muffins were warming in a roaster oven. There were already around 50 teachers talking and drinking coffee, waiting for the appreciation event to begin. Maybe I might be of help after all.
When I looked online, I found the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released new covid-19 guidance for schools on Monday that supports in-person learning and recommends universal masking, regardless of vaccination status. This is a stricter position than was taken earlier this month by the CDC. “The AAP believes that the benefits of in-person school outweigh the risks in all circumstances.” One of the interventions put forward by the AAP is that all students over the age of 2 and all school staff wear masks at school unless they have a developmental or medical condition that prohibits wearing. Reasons for the recommendation include a significant proportion of the student population is not yet eligible for vaccination, masking protects those who are not vaccinated and reduces transmission, and a difficulty in monitoring or enforcing mask policies for those who are not vaccinated. I am not sure the teachers and staff receive enough appreciation (let alone pay) for the risk they gladly take on.
Dr. Sara Bode, chair-elect of the AAP Council on School Health Executive Committee, said Monday there are many children and others who cannot be vaccinated. Therefore, it’s important to use every tool to safeguard children from covid-19. Universal masking is one of those tools. Masking is also the most effective strategy to create a consistent message and expectation among students. It is an approach that does not create the added burden of trying to monitor the vaccination status of others. The AAP’s recommendation on universal masking is different from guidance by CDC, which also prioritized in-person learning but advised that fully vaccinated students, teachers, and staff don’t need to wear masks at school. It seems the AAP has a greater appreciation for the virus than the CDC.
Thoughts: I have wondered about how every law maker who complains about mask mandates and social distancing is countered by a child who understands the gravity of the pandemic and their role in it. Children seem to have a greater appreciation for the risks they are facing. Perhaps it is because they cannot be vaccinated and are now beginning to face the brunt of the pandemic. If the adults who are eligible to receive the vaccine would have a greater appreciation for the children who are at risk, we could ensure the safety of all. Since we are not able to trust adults to “do the right thing,” the onus falls on the children. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.