Seventeen pediatricians from three pediatric clinics in the region are urging local school districts to implement universal mask policies this fall, citing concerns about the spread of the Delta variant and the risk it could pose to students and educators in the region. coming school year.
Pediatricians at Grand Traverse Children’s Clinic, Kids Creek Children’s Clinic and Traverse Area Pediatric and Adolescent Clinic signed the letter advocating a universal mask policy for personalized education at all levels, regardless of vaccination status. “Over the past 18 months, we’ve definitely learned a few things,” the group wrote. “Vaccination is the best way to prevent COVID-19. Universal masking is a close second. Third, school learning is safe and more effective than distance education if the masking is applied, regardless of the infection rate in the community.”
The pediatricians further noted that the Delta variant has been identified in Grand Traverse County and has been shown to affect both children and adults. “Since Delta was identified in GT County, our weekly average of new cases has doubled from 46 to 91 and the same is true for hospitalizations,” the group wrote. “Within our own offices, we have witnessed this increase in test positivity at the local level in the past month. This is not an isolated problem for other regions of our country. Other than being rapidly and widely transmitted in unmasked indoor environments, (the) Delta- variant has also been documented to be passed on among vaccinated individuals. Experts agree, masks have been proven to reduce transmission and infection. They are safe and effective, and our students wore them last year with few exceptions.”
The pediatricians noted that students are a “vulnerable population” as children under 12 have not yet had the chance to get vaccinated. “In addition, we have a mental health crisis of depression and anxiety for which the routine of school and social interactions has been an important countermeasure,” the group wrote. “In addition, we should not ignore our immunocompromised or high-risk students, caregivers and educators who have felt the isolation and vulnerability of this pandemic over the past 18 months. These at-risk children also deserve the chance to have as safe and personalized learning experiences as possible.”
The pediatricians said it was reasonable to assume that voluntary masking in schools — an approach followed by Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) and Grand Traverse Academy, among others — will be less effective than universal masking. “This could lead to unnecessary school closures and student quarantines,” the group wrote. “It could also become a major source of community transmission. Grand Traverse County is currently already classified as a substantial community transmission, which, according to current CDC, MDHHS, and AAP recommendations, indicates that all individuals over the age of 2, regardless of immunization status, should must wear face masks at indoor meetings.”
The pediatricians concluded their letter by noting that last year their practices “advocated a return to personal education conditioned on the implementation of appropriate safety measures in the best interests of our students. Removing one of the key safeguards leading to that success.” As we fight a more dangerous variant in our community, a majority of the unvaccinated student population is counterproductive This year our position is no different Universal masking should be implemented in all schools before the start of the 2021-2022 academic year .”
Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers also posted an open letter to the TCAPS school board this week requesting that the district’s decision to make masks optional this fall be reconsidered, calling it a “short-sighted” decision. “I understand that last year was an extremely difficult time for our students and many families because of COVID-19,” he wrote. “But with emerging variants coming to this area; limited vaccine access for children under 12; a strong anti-vaccination movement; and so many unknowns with this virus, now is not the time to experiment with our youth or the dedicated teachers within us.” public school system by not requiring proven preventive measures such as masks.” Carruthers asked school board members not to “endanger some of our most vulnerable people because of the concerns of a small group of fringe and conspiracy theories. Please use the science and facts of the CDC to provide proven protection for our children and those who who teach them.”
Pictured: TCAPS administration building