BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) — Pediatricians are adding their voice to the growing call for students and staff to start the school year with masks.
“We hope being local voices of people they know will help, people they trust, people who trust others, that weighs more on them,” says Dr. Peily Soong, Pediatrics East.
dr. Peily Soong added his name to the letter sent on behalf of pediatricians urging schools to introduce universal masking this school year. In the letter, doctors said, “Please don’t force families to choose between their children’s health and their education and mental health.” It was signed on behalf of 16 pediatric centers in Jefferson and Shelby County and 14 individual physicians.
“The pediatricians in Birmingham who care for your children are in agreement on this and the problems associated with wearing masks are minimal,” says Dr. Tori Anderson, Greenvale Pediatrics.
Several school districts have announced decisions to start the school year with masks, including Hoover City, Trussville City, Bessemer City and Birmingham City. The doctors hope districts will reconsider if they don’t need masks to start the year.
“Vestavia kids are the control group because they’re the ones who don’t mask, so we’ll see what happens,” said Dr. soong.
Some parents attended the Vestavia Hills City School board meeting on Monday and expressed concern as the board adjourned to discuss the topic. The board turned down the request for the parents to speak because public comments were not an approved item on the agenda, but one parent exclaimed, “You are not following the recommendations of the Jefferson County Department of Public Health.”
Doctors who wrote the letter say the goal is for children to learn personally and that masks are an important step in making that possible.
“If we had started school in May when our numbers were lower, then there might be an argument that we might not need masks,” said Dr. Soong. “But our numbers are so high now.”
Vestavia Hills City Schools has confirmed that masks are still optional on Monday afternoons, but highly recommended. The school system monitors the COVID figures in the schools and publishes those figures on an online dashboard on a weekly basis. The district also says that the plan is subject to change.
Jefferson County Schools has an optional mask policy, but the district note masks are highly recommended in facilities. Masks are mandatory on buses in the district.
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