Facial Masking

San Francisco should be like Europe when it comes to COVID, kids, masks and schools

San Francisco is expected this week to ease certain indoor restrictions. maskMandates for certain segments of the adult population Mayor London Breed has celebrated the news “because it will allow offices to have more normal routines and interactions.”The updated guidance for child care and school is missing from the new guidance. maskThere is no way to mandate or admit that children may need more regular routines and interactions. Children need these things more than adults because they are in peak developmental years.

It’s not as if mask relief for kids couldn’t safely become a reality. Mayor Breed and the San Francisco Department of Public Health have recently admitted what has been known since the beginning: Serious COVID-19 disease in children under 18 years old is very rare. This means that pediatric cases are a small proportion of all cases. This percentage has remained relatively constant over time, even during the delta wave. In fact, numbers indicate that COVID-19 poses a significantly lower risk to kids than drowning, homicides, suicides, cancer, car accidents, common flu and heart disease — all risks we’ve previously accepted without dramatically altering the school environment.

San Francisco also acknowledges that most pediatric COVID-19 cases in the area are the result of adult-to-child transmission. Children rarely transmit the infection at high rates even if they are infected. A study suggests that less than 4% of household outbreaks are caused by children, meaning  approximately 96% are not. Since March 2020, there have been a total of 13 pediatric hospitalizations among San Francisco residents at San Francisco hospitals, and hospitalizations are so low that the city says “the data cannot be publicly reported without concern for privacy and confidentiality.” There also hasn’t been a single COVID-19-related death under the age of 20 in San Francisco.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 risk assessments by age estimate that simply being a child aged five to 17 is 99.9994% protective against the risk of death and 98% protective against hospitalization. Of the 74 million Americans aged 17 and under, 499 have died from COVID-19-related causes since January 2020. However, more than 57,000 deaths in this age group can be attributed to other causes. Concerns about long-term COVID in children are unfounded.

Despite all the good news, San Francisco still stands out in terms of childbirth. maskThe mandates are much lower than the vast majority of Europe. The CDC’s European counterpart the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control only recommends masking for children ages 12 and up. After consulting an “international and multidisciplinary expert group”COVID-19 disease transmission in children and taking into account “childrens’ psychosocial needs and developmental milestones,”UNICEF and World Health Organization do not recommend this. masksfor children 5 and under. They allow for nuance when it is about masking children ages 6-11, including a “child’s proximity to other people who are at high risk of developing serious illness, such as the elderly.”

This is why England, for instance, has never masked its children at school. “there is greater use of the system of controls for minimising risk, including through keeping in small and consistent groups or bubbles, and greater scope for physical distancing by staff within classrooms. Face coverings can have a negative impact on learning and teaching and so their use in the classroom should be avoided.” During the U.K.’s delta wave in June, the country actually saw lower case rates in schools compared with the previous fall and the general population, and have since removed any recommendations around classroom bubbles.

Similar to Sweden, Sweden continued to run schools as normal even during the peak COVID-19 wave. An analysis from March through June 2020 took a look at roughly 2 million preschool- and school-age children (ages 1 to 16), where there was no masking, no social distancing and no school building ventilation improvements. Only 15 children (0.00075%) were required to be admitted for COVID-19-related illnesses, and there were no deaths. A significant finding was that the COVID-19 illness risk was not greater for preschool and school teachers than it was for the general population.

Norway was also never recommended face masksFor all ages of schooling, but Finland, Denmark Iceland, Ireland and the Netherlands have never recommended it. maskson elementary-age students or have shifted from no masksThe current school year. Instead, Switzerland focuses on maintaining good ventilation. Denmark, Norway and Sweden all have lower adult vaccination rates than San Francisco, yet have removed most, if not all, COVID-19 restrictions. Spain and Italy have the highest rates of vaccination. maskFrance is currently removing elementary schools, with exceptions for children aged 6 and under. maskCommunity with low case rates may have special requirements.

As the above examples demonstrate, Europe has consistently acknowledged children’s incredibly low risk of serious illness from COVID-19 and the importance of the learning environment and children’s developmental and psychosocial needs. Faces are fundamental to speech and language development in children as well as social skills. masksIt can cause impairment faceRecognition and nonverbal communication are important for young children. It’s not until they are teenagers that children are able to move beyond a reliance on facial features, and that was before we entered a 20-month phase of heavy maskWearing. It seems that very few people are actually examining any potential downstream effects.

There are still articles about how parents and schools can help children compensate. maskWearing, the bigger question should have been: Why bother with any of that? maskIt is just not necessary for children to wear masks. Mayor Breed and SFDPH should demonstrate that masking children has benefits that outweighs the costs. They have been imposing a fundamental, risky change in classroom interactions, childhood development, indefinitely. They should prove there is no other way. They have not provided such proof.

It’s incredibly illogical that SFDPH doesn’t mandate faceChildren under 10 years old are not covered in indoor public buildings. However, they are required for children 2 years and older in child care and school settings where learning and socialization play a key role. Additionally, school interactions take place in more stable groups than at a grocery or restaurant. masksthey are required to work for them at the latter, often for eight-ten hours a day.

We are concerned adults, parents, and educators in San Francisco and believe the city should balance public health needs with medical necessity for children. This will have a significant impact on their mental well-being and development. We ask the Mayor Breed and SFDPH to allow this. maskChoice for children 12 years old and under in child care, youth programs, and in-person schools, as Europe has. This would also be in line with California Department of Public Health guidance, which allows for local flexibility. Parents who prefer their children to wear the same clothes they wore as before. masksThis decision would be made at your own discretion.

As adults, it is our responsibility to not only protect but to also ensure their success. Their low COVID-19 risk should not be underestimated and should be reflected in public policy. It is time for our children and grandchildren to return to the United States. “normal routines and interactions”This singular focus is no longer necessary. virus mitigation.

This op-ed was written by 41 Bay Area residents and parents. Here are their names:

Laura Fagan (12-year San Francisco resident, Professional, and Parent of Three)
Ram Duriseti (Menlo Park parent to three)
Michelle Koskella (Burlingame parent to two)
Lelia Glass (San Francisco resident; educator, academic and linguist)
Anh Shah (San Francisco parent to two)
Pradyut Shah (San Francisco parent to two)
Kathleen Laipply (San Francisco mother of three)
Ashwin Krishnan (San Francisco parent to three)
Daniel Bryant (Windsor Unified parent for three)
Anne Woodward (San Francisco resident).
Mercedes Hoglund (San Francisco parent for three)
Heath Hoglund (San Francisco parent to three)
Lesley Fisher (San Francisco parent for two)
Katja Wishart (San Francisco parent for one)
Robin Attia (San Francisco parent to three)
Jenny Gillespie Mason (Berkeley parent for two)
Mary Wellhausen (Antioch mother of three)
Sally Hwang (San Francisco parent to one)
Eric Passetti (San Francisco parent for one)
Elizabeth Woods (Berkeley parent to two)
Michael Senger (San Francisco resident).
Reza Musavi, San Francisco parent of two
Markus Shayeb (Marin parent to four)
Meghan Weber (San Francisco parent with two)
Geoff Weber (San Francisco parent for two)
Julia Sterling (San Francisco parent to two)
Eva Chung (San Francisco parent to two)
Kai Sparnas (San Francisco parent)
Justen Sepka (San Francisco resident)
Michelle Gyorke – Takatri (San Francisco resident, parent of three)
Katelyn Ribero (San Mateo resident)
Ashton Wilson (San Francisco parent).
Rachel Medak (San Francisco parent)
Alexandra Gutentag (Berkeley resident)
Erica Sandberg (San Francisco parent to one) 
Evan Bailyn (Berkeley parent for one)
Eileen Godsey (San Francisco parent to two)
Jed Godsey (San Francisco parent to two)
Robert Chappell (Berkeley resident)
Marie Hurabiell, San Francisco parent of two
Matthew Ryan (San Francisco, Marin County parent).

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