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UCSF professor blasts CDC guidance calling for kids aged 2 and up to be masked at school

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Vinay Prasad, associate professor of epidemology at UC San Francisco

A UC San Francisco professor of epidemiology condemned the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s call for children ages 2 and older to wear masks at school, saying the policy would do more harm than good to a child’s development and national vaccination efforts.

In a column for The Atlantic OceanVinay Prasad warned state leaders that forcing young students to wear masks could hinder their language, social and cultural development skills.

He claimed the trade-off for the minimal protection masks provide against COVID-19 was not worth it.

‘There is no scientific consensus on the wisdom of mandatory masking rules for schoolchildren. The World Health Organization, which recommends that children aged 12 and older wear masks under the same conditions as adults, specifically advises against masking for children aged 5 and under,” Prasad wrote.

Prasad said that while the concern that children can’t breathe behind masks was a bit exaggerated, so too is the idea that masks offer major benefits for fighting COVID in the classroom.

He criticized the effectiveness of most masks, as prevailing studies have shown that the popular blue surgical masks do little to contain aerosols.

AN study of the University of Waterloo found that the blue masks were only 10% effective at filtering aerosols from the mouth and nose, while the closer-fitting N95 and KN95 masks filtered more than half.

Students in New York City Schools have been required to wear masks for more than a year.  Pictured, School Chancellor Meisha Porter, center, with students on PS 5 on August 17

Students in New York City Schools have been required to wear masks for more than a year. Pictured, School Chancellor Meisha Porter, center, with students on PS 5 on August 17

Parent Melissa Jean reads to her son's Pre-K class as they all wear masks at Phyl's Academy, in Brooklyn on March 24, 2021

Parent Melissa Jean reads to her son’s Pre-K class as they all wear masks at Phyl’s Academy, in Brooklyn on March 24, 2021

Melanie Raybon, right, lined up with her classmates at Ochard Knob Middle School in Tennessee on Aug. 12.  Students have the choice not to wear masks in the state

Melanie Raybon, right, lined up with her classmates at Ochard Knob Middle School in Tennessee on Aug. 12. Students have the choice not to wear masks in the state

Other studies around the world have come to the same conclusion, and Prasad noted another study in Spain that looked at infection rates between masked and unmasked five- and six-year-old college students.

The Results of the study showed that the older, masked students, still transmitted faster speeds than their younger, unmasked counterparts.

Prasad added that the masks faced another challenge, which was the fact that “little children fidget with their masks.”

In addition to recommending masks for young children, the CDC guidelines also urge masks for most vaccinated caregivers who work in daycare centers.

“Many studies support the importance of seeing caregivers’ faces by babies, and prior to the advent of COVID-19, many American professional organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, strongly agreed,” he wrote.

Two in five parents oppose all masks in schools, regardless of the child’s vaccination status, and just under half of U.S. K-12 parents want all students to be masked in the classroom, according to a new survey from Gallup.

A small number — 11 percent — say mandates should only apply to unvaccinated students.

Students at Florida's Ruth K. Broad Bay Harbor K-8 Center wear their shoes amid ongoing policy dispute between the state and federal government

Students at Florida’s Ruth K. Broad Bay Harbor K-8 Center wear their shoes amid ongoing policy dispute between the state and federal government

According to Gallup polls, about half of primary school parents want all children to wear masks at school.  41 percent want students not to wear masks and 11 percent want only unvaccinated people to wear masks

According to Gallup polls, about half of primary school parents want all children to wear masks at school. 41 percent want students not to wear masks and 11 percent want only unvaccinated people to wear masks

Similarly, 48 percent of parents want all teachers and staff to be masked, while 38 percent want no teachers to be masked, and 13 percent want mandates only for unvaccinated teachers.

Prasad also warned that the pressure on masks could deter people from COVID-19 vaccinations.

“The evidence supporting vaccination is indisputable, in the form of multiple randomized trials, while the evidence to support school mask mandates for young children is patchy at best,” he wrote.

“The problem with exaggerating unproven recommendations is that it can distract people from well-founded recommendations.”

Prasad noted that because students have never dealt with face coverings in the past, it is difficult to estimate how many children are affected.

He eventually urged researchers to rigorously test policies that require all children to wear masks to fully understand the effects so they can be properly weighed against the dangers of COVID.

dr.  Brooke Decker, left, director of Infection Prevention in Pittsburg argues with anti-mask attorney Dana Gibson as Pennsylvania imposed a masking mandate on all students

dr. Brooke Decker, left, director of Infection Prevention in Pittsburg argues with anti-mask attorney Dana Gibson as Pennsylvania imposed a masking mandate on all students

Pro-masking proponents protested state backlash in August

Pro-masking proponents protested state backlash in August

States remain divided on whether or not to approve sweeping policies for students wearing masks.  Pictured, Santa Fe South High School students in Oklahoma City

States remain divided on whether or not to approve sweeping policies for students wearing masks. Pictured, Santa Fe South High School students in Oklahoma City

On Tuesday, Pennsylvania became the latest state to mandate masks in all K-12 public schools — aligning itself with states like New York and California.

Meanwhile, leaders in Florida, Texas and other conservative-led states have banned local and school mask requirements.

In Florida, the debate over mask mandates has become particularly heated as the administration of Governor Ron DeSantis cuts funding from districts that institute mask requirements.

DeSantis cut the funding even as a Florida judge ruled that DeSantis’ mandate ban was unconstitutional. The governor promised to appeal the ruling, expecting it to be quashed.

Meanwhile, President Biden’s administration is investigating five state bans as Education Secretary Miguel Cardona says they could constitute civil rights violations for students with disabilities.

Debates about masking and vaccinations are increasing as the delta variant spreads further across the country.

The US reported nearly 40,000,000 new cases and more than 638,000 deaths in the past 30 days, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nearly 75% of eligible adults have taken at least one shot of the vaccine.

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