New Question about whether Kids Should Take Their Masks off Now

Photo courtesy of MGN

Photo courtesy of MGN

By Luda Tang

Photo courtesy of MGN

As the Omicron wave begins to abate, a conversation about whether schools should make masking optional has returned. When can kids safely take off their masks in school?

Erin Bromage, an associate professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, said to the New York Times that “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.”

As the omicron begins to peak in the U.S., some pediatricians, neuroscientists, special education teachers and parents talking more about the potential negative impacts of prolonged masking.

The debate about masks in schools is tricky, which harms both ways. For people who are immunocompromised, or live with those who are, they are afraid of the potential adverse changes brought by removing the mandates. However, downsides of keeping kids in masks month after month are also can’t be underestimated.

Elissa Perkins, the director of infectious disease management in the emergency department of the Boston Medical Center, told the New York Times, even though it’s hard to measure the harms of masks, “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.”

Because of the Omicron surge, Los Angeles is now requiring upgraded masks in schools, encouraging young kids to wear KN95s and KF94s. Along with the question of how well masks in school work, we need to also ask if school mask policies should be stricters even when vaccinations for kids are widely available, and when is the right moment to remove them.