The dearth of reliable and comprehensive data about Covid is especially troubling when it comes to the impact of the disease on children. Even more especially when assumptions about the vulnerability of children requires all of them to wear masks for the entire school day.
This is a point clearly made by Emily Oster, a Brown University economics professor who is expert in data analysis. Because of the paucity of federal data to demonstrate the continuing need of school masking, she set out on her own, surveying 12 million (of the nation’s 56 million K-12) students in 5,000 American schools. (See, “Why wasn’t the US tracking the spread of COVID-19 in schools?“) To me, the absence of such comprehensive and reliable data is indefensible if you’re going to require the masking of children in schools and day care.
One of her conclusions in, “Kids and Masks: What are the downsides“:
“…what seems quite clear to me in reflecting on this is that masks are not a friendship bracelet. The effects may be small, or mixed across kids, but in the absence of a disease risk, we would not have children mask at school or child care. And these effects are likely larger for younger kids. Which means that there are strong reasons to consider when we will feel the COVID risks are such that we can remove masks, probably even before the youngest kids are vaccine-eligible. Which, basically, means we need to design off-ramps.
Off-ramps, meaning a way to release children from the mask mandates. (By the way, she also said her studies show that it’s time to end school quarantines, replacing them with test-to-stay or nothing. She also argues that not only “it wasn’t a mistake to open schools” but more should have opened faster. )
You can find the detailed results of her study in her “National COVID-19 School Response Dashboard.” There you find, for example:
- During the weeks of Sept. 14 to Sept. 9, 2020, only 10 children out of 210,491 attending school in class contacted Covid. That comes out to an infection rate of just 0.14 percent. In the same period only 17 out of 53,495 staff members (teachers, administrators, janitors, etc.) contacted the disease. That’s a rate of 0.24 percent.
- More recently, during the weeks of May 10 to May 23, 2021, a total of 8 students contacted Covid out of an in-class attendance of 7,770,832. That’s a rate a 0.11 percent infection rate for the two-week period. During that time, a total of 6 staff out of 1,642,392 contacted Covid, for a rate of 0.09 percent.
Yes, every infection is dangerous, a few may even be life-threatening. But the extraordinarily low rate of student and staff infections calls into serious question the rigid mandates.
Of course, Oster got attacked for not being an epidemiologist. Some of those attacks came from epidemiologists. Such arrogance. The idea that no one else has the expertise to study public policy that virtually shut down the economy and actually punished children, adults, businesses and more for what is increasingly turning out to be questionable–at best–reasons.
None of this science seems to influence the oblivious Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who instituted a mask mandate for all K-12 students and staff in August. Asked when he would end that and other mask mandates in Illinois and what metrics he would use to determine when, he couldn’t give an answer. He said:
If hospitalizations are heading downward, if the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 are heading downward, that’s a really good sign and means we’re getting more and more optimistic about removing indoor mask mandates outside of the schools
So general as to be meaningless. Of course, Pritzker isn’t the only over-reaching government official whose justification for such mandates is–to be nice–facile. It seems much America is acquiescing to these unfounded mandates.
Democracy dies with such mandates.Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.