Hundreds of thousands of students across the US will be forced to wear face masks in class when schools return this week as controversial mandates return.
Although Covid infection rates have been flat for months, elementary and high schools in New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have made face coverings an entry requirement for students returning from vacation.
Education officials claim the policy is to prevent a boom in respiratory illnesses after increased intermingling during the first normal Christmas and New Year in years.
But there is little evidence that face masks actually reduce infection rates, and mounting research shows that the regulations stunted children’s social development and education, and robbed them of their vital immunity to other seasonal pathogens such as influenza and RSV.
There are growing concerns that harmful Covid guidelines could be creeping back into American life after the US government announced all passengers from China – suffering from a major outbreak – would be tested on entry, although neither were there There is evidence that the policy is working.
Although Covid infection rates have been flat for months, elementary and high schools in New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have made face coverings an entry requirement for students returning from vacation. A week-long mask mandate was introduced at a school in Washington last month, and several states have issued mask recommendations to the public
Seattle, Washington residents live in one of 12 counties that now recommend residents wear masks (left). Los Angeles County is under a mask consultation after officials warned that a state mandate could be coming soon (right) earlier this month.
Philadelphia public schools will require students and staff to wear masks in the classroom for the first 10 days after winter break Jan. 3-13. Officials cite ‘triple disease’ of Covid, RSV and flu as why masks are needed (file photo)
Covid infections in the US are now around 400,000 a week, compared to 4 million this time last year and 1.3 million last year.
The weekly cases have been stable since late summer, which is attributed to high immunity in the population through vaccination and waves of infection.
Schools in New Jersey justify the recent mask requirements because the state is suffering from increases in Covid, flu and RSV cases.
It comes as 22 states recorded “very high” flu activity in the week leading up to Christmas — up from 26 the week before. Six states recorded the highest transmission rates, compared to eight in early December.
America’s flu season came unusually early, although cases of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cratered for the second straight week just before Christmas – meaning America’s “triple epidemic” could soon be coming to an end.
The RSV is also a few weeks ahead of the flu crisis. Cases peaked in November, but rates remain very high. Both have led to hospitals, especially children’s hospitals, being overwhelmed.
The bacterial infection Strep A is also increasing among children and has killed at least two people in Colorado. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an urgent alert about the infection ahead of Christmas, notifying doctors and public health officials of the situation.
Paradoxically, masks and lockdowns have been blamed for the rise in minors because they prevented them from developing the natural immunity they would otherwise have gained.
Paterson Public Schools in Passaic County and Camden City School District in New Jersey were the latest to enforce masks for indoor students.
Paterson Public Schools’ new rule goes into effect tomorrow (January 3) and applies to its 25,000 students from pre-kindergarten through grade 12.
In a letter to parents, school district superintendent Eileen Shafer said: “I know this is a relief to some and a frustration to others. Whatever your position, I ask for your cooperation.’
She added: “Please continue to maintain universal masking in our buildings and we encourage you to take all other precautions against the spread of the Covid-19, RSV and flu virus including washing your hands frequently, avoiding large gatherings and staying put at home when ill. ‘
The Camden City School District, which has 75,000 students between Kindergarten and Grade 12, will ask anyone entering its buildings to dress up inside for at least two weeks through January 17.
The school district superintendent said in a letter to families the move was “in an effort to be proactive and remain vigilant.”
The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania school district is also requiring students to wear masks for at least 10 days, beginning Jan. 3 and ending Jan. 13 if not renewed.
Meanwhile, Boston Public Schools (BPS) in Massachusetts announced Friday that students and staff will be asked to wear face coverings between January 4 and 13.
BPS said in a statement the temporary masking was a “request and expectation” and “not a mandate” and said no one would be sent home or disciplined for refusing to wear one.
And in Washington state, Wilson Elementary School mandated masks for a week in December because rising respiratory illnesses caused about 30 percent of its students to be absent in a day.
On the second weekend of December, Washington state, Los Angeles and New York City issued new recommendations urging residents to start masking again in indoor public spaces.