Face Masks For Kids in School
To mask or not to mask, that is not the question … or is it?
Liza A Pierce of “A Maui Blog”
The topic of wearing a face mask during the pandemic is very controversial. Proponents of face masks and those who are opposing the use of face masks have very strong opinions so the topic of face mask wearing becomes divisive.
With school starting, it got me thinking about the use of face masks for kids.
Instead of speculating, I opted to check what the State of Hawai‘i Department of Health (DOH) says. Below are highlights from the DOH guidance:
Correct and consistent mask use is a core essential strategy to help prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19 in schools and the community. When people wear a mask correctly and consistently, they protect others as well as themselves.
• Masks must always be worn correctly and consistently by all students and staff when indoors.
• The only exception is for eating and drinking.
• Students and staff do not need to wear masks in most outdoor settings.
• Students and staff should wear masks in crowded outdoor settings or during activities that involve sustained close contact with other people.
• Schools may elect to require that masks be worn in outdoor settings to simplify procedures for identification of contacts when a person with COVID-19 infection is identified.
• Schools should be supportive of students and staff who choose to wear a mask outdoors.
Face shields should not be used as a substitute for masks because of a lack of evidence of their effectiveness. A face shield provides eye protection for the person wearing it (e.g., in the event of bodily fluid splashes) and not respiratory protection.
In general, students and staff do not need to wear masks when outdoors (e.g., participating in outdoor play, recess, and physical education activities).
When physical education activities or recess is held indoors, students and staff must wear a mask.
To view the Department’s COVID-19 Health and Safety Guidance for School Year 2021–22, please go to www.hawaiipublicschools.org and download the free booklet in PDF format.
After perusing the guidelines, I am glad to see that “students and staff do not need to wear masks in most outdoor settings” during recess and physical education settings. While I am an advocate of proper use masking, I also believe children should not be wearing masks for a very long period. At least they will get some break when they go play outside during recess. Of course I am not a doctor so we need to cite an example of what a doctor will say about this issue.
Dr. Vinay Prasad, a hematologist and oncologist, is an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UC San Francisco who wrote a comprehensive and thoughtful article on masking young students which can be found here: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/09/school-mask-mandates-downside/619952/. At the end of the article he acknowledged we really do not know if the benefits of masking kids in school outweighs the downsides. As he said: “In mid-March 2020, few could argue against erring on the side of caution. But nearly eighteen months later, we owe it to children and their parents to answer the question properly: Do the benefits of masking kids in school outweigh the downsides? The honest answer in 2021 remains that we don’t know for sure.”
To mask or not to mask? For school settings, the answer is to mask, at least that’s the mandate for now.
Liza Pierce of A Maui Blog is an Interactive Media Strategist in Hawai‘i. She started blogging in 2006 and she loves talking story online and spreading Aloha around the world. She’s been living on Maui since 1994 and considers Maui her home. A wife, a mother, a friend…and so much more. She loves Jesus; Maui Sunsets Catcher; Crazy About Rainbows; End Alzheimer’s Advocate. Her life is full and exciting here on the island of Maui. Liza is currently the Interactive Media Strategist with Wailea Realty Corp.