Too Soon to Lift Mask Mandate for Kids?

By Avalon Kelly

Across California, mask mandates have been lifted throughout the past month.  As schools, businesses, and workplaces strive to return back to normal, individuals are being given the choice of whether or not to wear masks.  With the options of COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots, many feel adequately protected and safe in an environment with people not wearing masks.  However, preschoolers and kindergarten children have not been given the option to get vaccinated.  The lifting of the mask mandate means that these young kids remain virtually unprotected from Covid-19 at school, putting them, their families and their loved ones at risk of exposure.  Until this age group is given the option of vaccination, mask mandates should remain in place for preschools and kindergartens.

Despite the relatively low risk of hospitalization or long-term effects that COVID-19 poses for children, these kids can still contract the disease and spread it to their friends and family.  The opportunity for the mask mandate to be lifted is a direct result of vaccinations.  Due to the fact that 70% of California’s population is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, we are able to return back to a relatively normal life.  However, no kids of this age group are vaccinated.  They have no vaccinated protection from the disease, and therefore could very easily receive and spread COVID-19.  While they may not feel the heavy-hitting symptoms of COVID-19, their grandparents, parents and teachers will.  

Supporters of lifting the mask mandate claim that masks are an impediment to effective learning.  However, recently conducted studies show that this is not the case.  In particular, a 2021 study found that children can detect unique communication cues and gestures without seeing the speaker’s mouth.  In fact, it is important to note that a safe, comfortable environment provides the opportunity for effective learning.  A huge change, such as the removal of masks, can be a cause of stress and discomfort in the classroom.  The best strategy to provide consistent and safe learning for these children is to maintain the mask mandate in their classrooms for now.

Due to the risk of transmission between children in the classroom and the lack of stability in their learning environment, the removal of the mask mandate in preschools and kindergartens should be postponed until these children have the choice to get vaccinated.  Keeping masks on will benefit the health and comfort of these young learners.