UTAH (ABC4) – Utah is currently experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases and new information suggests that the Delta variant is as infectious as chickenpox.
With this information surfacing as the school year quickly approaches, many parents may be trying to make the decision about whether or not to send kids back to school with masks, especially children under age 11 who cannot yet be vaccinated.
Here are some truths and falsehoods about kids and masks from the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) and a teacher to help parents make an informed decision.
True: Face masks reduce the spread of COVID-19 by blocking respiratory droplets that are emitted when people speak, sneeze, or cough, UDOH says.
True: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends everyone in a school setting wear a face mask.
True: For unvaccinated children, wearing a mask is the next best thing to keep them safe, according to UDOH.
True: Side effects from wearing masks, such as skin irritation, headaches, and general discomfort, are mild and rare, according to Jenny Johnson, public information officer for UDOH.
True: Even those with asthma and allergies can wear a facemask safely, UDOH tells ABC4.com.
True: Some research and theories suggest that wearing masks can hinder a child’s learning. Amanda Sutton is a teacher at Open Classroom who teaches young children in the first and second grades. She says masks have made tasks like enunciating words difficult for her students, but recognizes that masks meet the needs of a public health crisis.
“I think that what my goal for next year would be is that the general, everyday use of masks is accepted and encouraged, and if we take them off occasionally for certain activities, that’s the exception, not the rule,” she explains. “Then we can satisfy what I consider to be the needs of a public health crisis and the needs of little kids trying to learn.”
False: Wearing a mask causes hypoxia (low oxygen) and lung damage. True: According to UDOH, there is no evidence that wearing a mask is dangerous.
False: Wearing a mask traps carbon dioxide in healthy individuals, even when multiple masks are layered on top of each other. True: There is no evidence that wearing a mask is dangerous, UDOH says.
False: Children with developmental disabilities should not wear a mask. True: Many children with developmental disabilities have other medical conditions that make them vulnerable to getting seriously ill from COVID-19, Johnson tells ABC4.com. Wearing a mask can keep them safe.
False: Masks only protect those around the wearer. True: The COVID-19 virus is spread mostly from person to person through respiratory droplets that are emitted when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or talks. Therefore, wearing a mask protects both the wearer and those around them, according to UDOH.
False: Vaccinated people cannot carry COVID-19 and are not at risk of spreading it. True: Though UDOH says it is extremely rare for vaccinated people to get breakthrough infections of COVID-19, those who do are still contagious and can spread the virus. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors.