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Parents lose patience over school mask mandate

Guest teacher Laura Wiggs, who's also a Menlo Park City School District parent, shows a kindergartener how to distinguish between left and right in Atherton on Jan. 19, 2022. (Photo by Magali Gauthier)

Since California health officials decreed the end of the mask mandate for restaurants and grocery stores last week, frustrated parents have been asking: When can their kids take their masks off at school?

They didn't get any answers during a much anticipated press conference Monday hosted by California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, who said the state would wait until Feb. 28 to potentially change masking rules at schools.

The California Teachers Association, one of the state's largest unions with over 300,000 members, supported the decision to "pause and gather more information" before revising the mask mandate for schools. But some parents and educators, who until recently supported strict mask rules in the classroom, are losing their patience.

"I really started thinking, why aren't we talking about the masks coming off?" said Dr. Will Sheldon, an Oakland parent and a family medicine doctor. "There was no discussion of what the off-ramps are going to be."

Concerns over education quality

Parents and educators interviewed by CalMatters said the social and emotional harms of long-term masking need to be weighed against what appear to be the minimal benefits of masking amid rising vaccination rates and receding case numbers.

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Sheldon said his daughter has had a harder time making new friends because masks cover her facial expressions. But of greater concern, he said, are the kids he sees in his clinic who are deaf or have other language delays and rely on reading lips to learn speech and reading.

"I think they were a good idea early in the pandemic," Sheldon said. "At this point, I'm more than ready for them to change. I think we've gone to an extreme."

Meanwhile, public health experts are saying masks will play a smaller role in 2022's pandemic playbook.

"As omicron quiets down, we're approaching a point where we can take masks off," said Robert Schooley, a professor of medicine at UC San Diego. "But if I had a 5- to 12- year- old who wasn't vaccinated, I would still want them to keep the masks on until they get vaccinated. It's not always trivial when a child gets COVID."

High-quality, tight-fitting masks have been shown to protect against transmission, but they don't completely eliminate the risk of getting COVID-19. And with the low risk of serious illness for kids, some parents are saying it's time to lift the mask mandate and take a step towards normalcy.

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While not all parents oppose masks in schools — CalMatters spoke to parents who thought they should embrace all measures to reduce the death count — some worry the masks are reducing their child's enthusiasm for learning.

'If I had a 5- to 12- year- old who wasn't vaccinated, I would still want them to keep the masks on until they get vaccinated. It's not always trivial when a child gets COVID.'

-Robert Schooley, professor of medicine, UC San Diego

"I want my son to feel excited and connected," said Patricia Johnson, an Oakland parent of a first grader. "That's what I've wanted from school all along. I want him to love school."

Jason Peplinski, the superintendent of Simi Valley Unified School District, said public health experts can't underestimate the effect wearing masks for two years has had on kids. He hopes the mandate lifts for all students. A middle ground, he said, would be a logistical nightmare.

"What I don't want to happen is for the governor to say if you're vaccinated you can unmask," Peplinski said. "That puts the onus on school districts."

Some teachers are also calling for an end to the mask mandate.

Bevin Abbe, a vocal music teacher at Santa Susana High School in Simi Valley, said masks have been stifling her students' creative expression for too long. She worries that more introverted students are hiding behind their masks, delaying their social development.

Abbe said debate over masking has become heated in her county of Ventura. Her district's teachers union declined to take a position.

"Our union has chosen to respect the different views of our membership and society, at large," said union president Amanda Hogan. "We have not taken a position on masks in the past and are unlikely to in the future."

Public health experts endorse masks

The California Department of Public Health issued its school mask mandate in July as most of the state's school districts were set to return to fully in-person instruction for the first time since the start of the pandemic. The mandate placed the responsibility of enforcement on local school officials.

As the omicron surge led to record case numbers among students, teachers and staff, many schools were pushed to a breaking point. But as case numbers decline, more states are starting to lift school mask mandates and taking steps towards normalcy. Lawmakers in some more conservative states are working to ban mask mandates altogether.

Simi Valley's Peplinski and parents opposing the mask mandate say it doesn't make sense for a vaccinated child to be able to eat at a restaurant or shop for groceries without a mask but have to put one on in the classroom. Public health experts, however, say the comparison isn't completely valid because education is compulsory and students spend most of their time at schools.

"If you want to go to a restaurant, that's your choice," said Andrew Noymer, a public health professor at the University of California, Irvine. "But kids need to be in schools, and I'd like to see them protected as much as possible."

Noymer said masks should be required at schools to eliminate the possibility of returning to virtual instruction. That said, he thinks the mandate could be lifted in the next month or so once case numbers and hospitalization rates are back down to where they were last May.

Noymer said the state could set various thresholds for case numbers, hospitalization rates and vaccination rates that would trigger an end to the mask mandate for schools. But on Monday, Ghaly provided no concrete metrics. He said the state would continue monitoring a variety of data points for the next two weeks.

Until then, some parents will remain exasperated.

"All they did was announce that they're having another press conference in two weeks," said Sheldon. "It felt like they were just kicking the can down the road."

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Parents lose patience over school mask mandate

by Joe Hong / CalMatters

Uploaded: Tue, Feb 15, 2022, 11:34 am

Since California health officials decreed the end of the mask mandate for restaurants and grocery stores last week, frustrated parents have been asking: When can their kids take their masks off at school?

They didn't get any answers during a much anticipated press conference Monday hosted by California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, who said the state would wait until Feb. 28 to potentially change masking rules at schools.

The California Teachers Association, one of the state's largest unions with over 300,000 members, supported the decision to "pause and gather more information" before revising the mask mandate for schools. But some parents and educators, who until recently supported strict mask rules in the classroom, are losing their patience.

"I really started thinking, why aren't we talking about the masks coming off?" said Dr. Will Sheldon, an Oakland parent and a family medicine doctor. "There was no discussion of what the off-ramps are going to be."

Parents and educators interviewed by CalMatters said the social and emotional harms of long-term masking need to be weighed against what appear to be the minimal benefits of masking amid rising vaccination rates and receding case numbers.

Sheldon said his daughter has had a harder time making new friends because masks cover her facial expressions. But of greater concern, he said, are the kids he sees in his clinic who are deaf or have other language delays and rely on reading lips to learn speech and reading.

"I think they were a good idea early in the pandemic," Sheldon said. "At this point, I'm more than ready for them to change. I think we've gone to an extreme."

Meanwhile, public health experts are saying masks will play a smaller role in 2022's pandemic playbook.

"As omicron quiets down, we're approaching a point where we can take masks off," said Robert Schooley, a professor of medicine at UC San Diego. "But if I had a 5- to 12- year- old who wasn't vaccinated, I would still want them to keep the masks on until they get vaccinated. It's not always trivial when a child gets COVID."

High-quality, tight-fitting masks have been shown to protect against transmission, but they don't completely eliminate the risk of getting COVID-19. And with the low risk of serious illness for kids, some parents are saying it's time to lift the mask mandate and take a step towards normalcy.

While not all parents oppose masks in schools — CalMatters spoke to parents who thought they should embrace all measures to reduce the death count — some worry the masks are reducing their child's enthusiasm for learning.

"I want my son to feel excited and connected," said Patricia Johnson, an Oakland parent of a first grader. "That's what I've wanted from school all along. I want him to love school."

Jason Peplinski, the superintendent of Simi Valley Unified School District, said public health experts can't underestimate the effect wearing masks for two years has had on kids. He hopes the mandate lifts for all students. A middle ground, he said, would be a logistical nightmare.

"What I don't want to happen is for the governor to say if you're vaccinated you can unmask," Peplinski said. "That puts the onus on school districts."

Some teachers are also calling for an end to the mask mandate.

Bevin Abbe, a vocal music teacher at Santa Susana High School in Simi Valley, said masks have been stifling her students' creative expression for too long. She worries that more introverted students are hiding behind their masks, delaying their social development.

Abbe said debate over masking has become heated in her county of Ventura. Her district's teachers union declined to take a position.

"Our union has chosen to respect the different views of our membership and society, at large," said union president Amanda Hogan. "We have not taken a position on masks in the past and are unlikely to in the future."

The California Department of Public Health issued its school mask mandate in July as most of the state's school districts were set to return to fully in-person instruction for the first time since the start of the pandemic. The mandate placed the responsibility of enforcement on local school officials.

As the omicron surge led to record case numbers among students, teachers and staff, many schools were pushed to a breaking point. But as case numbers decline, more states are starting to lift school mask mandates and taking steps towards normalcy. Lawmakers in some more conservative states are working to ban mask mandates altogether.

Simi Valley's Peplinski and parents opposing the mask mandate say it doesn't make sense for a vaccinated child to be able to eat at a restaurant or shop for groceries without a mask but have to put one on in the classroom. Public health experts, however, say the comparison isn't completely valid because education is compulsory and students spend most of their time at schools.

"If you want to go to a restaurant, that's your choice," said Andrew Noymer, a public health professor at the University of California, Irvine. "But kids need to be in schools, and I'd like to see them protected as much as possible."

Noymer said masks should be required at schools to eliminate the possibility of returning to virtual instruction. That said, he thinks the mandate could be lifted in the next month or so once case numbers and hospitalization rates are back down to where they were last May.

Noymer said the state could set various thresholds for case numbers, hospitalization rates and vaccination rates that would trigger an end to the mask mandate for schools. But on Monday, Ghaly provided no concrete metrics. He said the state would continue monitoring a variety of data points for the next two weeks.

Until then, some parents will remain exasperated.

"All they did was announce that they're having another press conference in two weeks," said Sheldon. "It felt like they were just kicking the can down the road."

Email Joe Hong at [email protected]

CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California's policies and politics.

Comments

buklau
Registered user
Avila
on Feb 15, 2022 at 12:58 pm
buklau, Avila
Registered user
on Feb 15, 2022 at 12:58 pm

Celebs & politicians are ignoring the mask mandates. Yet healthy children are force to wear masks for omicron (symptoms of the common cold).

CDC says the flu is more dangerous for children, yet nobody was mandating masks for kids during any flu outbreaks.

Watch the Super Bowl crowd, and compare it to how our state is treating our children.


BobB
Registered user
Vintage Hills
on Feb 15, 2022 at 2:25 pm
BobB, Vintage Hills
Registered user
on Feb 15, 2022 at 2:25 pm

@buklau,

The CDC does not say flu is more dangerous to children than covid.

1200 pediatric deaths due to covid in the last 2 years versus 6 pediatric flu deaths.

Stop spreading this nonsense.


John
Registered user
Birdland
on Feb 15, 2022 at 3:31 pm
John, Birdland
Registered user
on Feb 15, 2022 at 3:31 pm

Better check your facts BobB. You know how to google. Please check with CDC for their stats. Stop spreading misinformation. Show source.


BobB
Registered user
Vintage Hills
on Feb 15, 2022 at 4:16 pm
BobB, Vintage Hills
Registered user
on Feb 15, 2022 at 4:16 pm

@John,

Oh. My numbers are correct. The 'bucklau' was lying.

Web Link


John
Registered user
Birdland
on Feb 15, 2022 at 5:47 pm
John, Birdland
Registered user
on Feb 15, 2022 at 5:47 pm

Better try CDC not that crackpot site you referenced. 3000 to 4000 children die by auto annually. You stated 600 per year for covid. Shall we punish the millions of students adversely affected by mask and other inane covid restrictions. Try some common sense.


BobB
Registered user
Vintage Hills
on Feb 15, 2022 at 7:29 pm
BobB, Vintage Hills
Registered user
on Feb 15, 2022 at 7:29 pm

John,

If you read the article it has two links to the CDC statistics showing 1200 pediatric covid deaths in 2 years and six pediatric flu deaths. The links are right there in the article. The numbers are correct, and they are from the CDC.


BobB
Registered user
Vintage Hills
on Feb 15, 2022 at 8:08 pm
BobB, Vintage Hills
Registered user
on Feb 15, 2022 at 8:08 pm
John
Registered user
Birdland
on Feb 15, 2022 at 8:51 pm
John, Birdland
Registered user
on Feb 15, 2022 at 8:51 pm

What about the auto deaths and only 600 per year of covid for most likely underlying health issues. 350 million people in this country and we should torture our children on the possibility of 600 deaths per year. By the way how many deaths are flu and described as covid. I am done.


Pleasanton Parent
Registered user
Pleasanton Meadows
on Feb 15, 2022 at 8:56 pm
Pleasanton Parent, Pleasanton Meadows
Registered user
on Feb 15, 2022 at 8:56 pm

0.1% of the covid deaths over 2yrs are children under 18. So 0.1% of the 1% that die of Covid.

Ugh....come on Bob, if you live your life by those odds you can't ever leave your house.


BobB
Registered user
Vintage Hills
on Feb 15, 2022 at 11:05 pm
BobB, Vintage Hills
Registered user
on Feb 15, 2022 at 11:05 pm

@PP and John,

I didn't write anything about any of that. Just that buklau was lying. The CDC does not say covid is no more dangerous than the flu for children. I provided links to show that was the case.


buklau
Registered user
Avila
on Feb 16, 2022 at 2:46 am
buklau, Avila
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2022 at 2:46 am

Link to the CDC pdf download saying word for word "The risk of complications for healthy children is higher for flu compared to COVID-19":
Web Link (on page 6)

Bob keeps using strawmans and semantics to divert from the main point:
1) politicians and celebs are around partying and meeting without masks in California, but children are still forced to mask up
2) covid is very mild for children, with under 1k total deaths per year. By bob's logic kids shouldn't be passengers in cars either, as it's more dangerous for them.

If you're scared or sickly, stay home. If you want to live in fear over omicron go ahead. But stop mandating children to go along as it's been 2 years.


BobB
Registered user
Vintage Hills
on Feb 16, 2022 at 8:25 am
BobB, Vintage Hills
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2022 at 8:25 am

@buklau,

That document is way out of date (August 31, 2020) and has no data from later variants like delta and omicron. It was only based on preliminary studies early in the pandemic. Stop lying.

You used the word "strawman". I don't think it means what you think it means.


Ennis
Registered user
Pleasanton Valley
on Feb 16, 2022 at 9:30 am
Ennis, Pleasanton Valley
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2022 at 9:30 am

And while pediatric deaths are considered low, kids were at home during Delta and are now dealing with a far less potent version now back in school. Once again, please remember, kiddos are infecting adults, particularly elderly adults, who are dying. 921,000+, not to mention the impact on huge numbers of people with long Covid or long-term health issues, the impact on teachers, and the medical community. It's always someone else's problem, until it impacts you or your family and not being able to see facial cues or teach choir due to masks pales in comparison to the number of families who have lost a loved one. As usual, it's all about me and my rights while completely ignoring the impact on other people and families. The one positive is that at least we all know who we don't want to engage with in the future which, frankly, is many of you.


seenalot
Registered user
Parkside
on Feb 16, 2022 at 10:16 am
seenalot, Parkside
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2022 at 10:16 am

Teachers don't have the same margin of safety from more serious illness than do the students generally. Since not 100% of eligible students are not vaccinated, unfortunately, those who are don't get the safety they deserve. I think masks should be worn for the rest of the school year to offer a level of protection so that everyone can finish the school year successfully, including the teachers, and if they get sick, the subs.


Jake Waters
Registered user
Birdland
on Feb 16, 2022 at 10:43 am
Jake Waters, Birdland
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2022 at 10:43 am

BobB is being BobB.

The majority of child deaths is extremely low that are reported as Covid deaths. A large number of these kids died ‘not’ because of Covid, but ‘with’ Covid. They expired due to co-morbidities. Remember, the CDC played games with these deaths for everyone. If they came in with a shotgun blow to the chest and died, it was recorded as a Covid death. Primarily to keep the fear going, and up the return of dollars to the hospitals.

As to the parents standing up to unmask their children I say bravo. The government has already done enough to damage them. This is over people. The scary part is that Project Veritas has just released another recording of a FDA manager indicating that the Biden administration will be coming out with annual shots for everyone and kids.

Web Link


BobB
Registered user
Vintage Hills
on Feb 16, 2022 at 12:05 pm
BobB, Vintage Hills
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2022 at 12:05 pm

@Jake Waters,

Buklau wasn't claiming the CDC was wrong or inaccurate. He was claiming that they were saying something that they were not saying. Make whatever claims you want about the CDC, but they weren't saying what buklau was saying.

The CDC does not say that covid is less dangerous than the flu for children.


buklau
Registered user
Avila
on Feb 16, 2022 at 12:52 pm
buklau, Avila
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2022 at 12:52 pm

CDC official quote: "The risk of complications for healthy children is higher for flu compared to COVID-19". Meanwhile omicron is even mild more than ever.

Bob's source is sciencebasedmedicine which is some random site owned by New England Skeptical Society; I'll trust the CDC website.

But he can't stay on point. Won't address all the celebs and politicians out partying with no masks. He never wants this to end. He wants to have children masked up forever which makes him feel safer.

And remember, the mask mandates end today. For all who aren't scared, feel free to walk into stores maskless and unafraid ;)


BobB
Registered user
Vintage Hills
on Feb 16, 2022 at 1:24 pm
BobB, Vintage Hills
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2022 at 1:24 pm

@buklau,

Once again, your CDC link was way out of date. It's from August 31, 2020. It was based on preliminary studies and the original wild type virus, not the variants.

I posted two links directly to the CDC which back up the real data showing 1200 pediatric deaths from covid, and six deaths from influenza in the same period. The CDC does not say covid is less dangerous for children than the flu. That paper that you posted a link to is way out of date.


Kevin
Registered user
Castlewood
on Feb 16, 2022 at 5:01 pm
Kevin, Castlewood
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2022 at 5:01 pm

More misinformation from the usual suspects. Thank you BobB for doing what PW is not doing.


buklau
Registered user
Avila
on Feb 16, 2022 at 8:03 pm
buklau, Avila
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2022 at 8:03 pm

Hey Bob how come your're there not saying a word watching celebs/politicians all gathering maskless but our children need to mask up for 8 hours a day 5 days a week?

Rules for thee not for me :)


Pleasanton Parent
Registered user
Pleasanton Meadows
on Feb 16, 2022 at 8:35 pm
Pleasanton Parent, Pleasanton Meadows
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2022 at 8:35 pm

Ah kevin, no content, no sources, just increasing the volume of the echo in the chamber.


BobB
Registered user
Vintage Hills
on Feb 16, 2022 at 10:29 pm
BobB, Vintage Hills
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2022 at 10:29 pm

@buklau,

I haven't offered an opinion on any of that or anything else except that what you were saying was not true.


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