The debate over mask mandates in schools, both sides weigh in

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(ABC4) – The American Academy of Pediatrics reported out of 93,824 cases of COVID-19 in the week of July 25 to August 5, 15% of those cases were children.

ABC4’s Brian Carlson speaks with Dr. Andrew Pavia from the University of Utah Health and Primary Children’s Hospital about the implications of forgoing masks.

In Utah, the Department of Health reported 48,946 cases of COVID-19 in children ages 14 and under. Pavia worries that the number may skyrocket if school starts without universal masking.

“Masks work best if everyone wears them,” Pavia says. “School can be safe in person, but it can’t be safe if we don’t have universal masking. There is no serious risk to wearing a mask, and there is a very, very serious risk to allow COVID to spread unchecked in our schools.”

Pavia had very strong words for Salt Lake City Council members who voted to overturn Dr. Angela Dunn’s recommended mask mandate for the county’s K-6 grade students. 

“We really want to follow the science and leave scientific decisions in the hands of people who have our kids’ best interests at heart and who are not subject to the political whims that affect politicians, “ Pavia says. “As doctors and public health officials, we take responsibility for trying to protect the health of kids and if people overturn those recommendations and kids get really sick or they die, they have to realize that it really is their responsibility. They should think long and hard about that.”

Alongside health officials’ warnings of anti-masking, there were still some Utahns who were happy about the decision to overturn the mask mandate 

Some crowds of citizens cheered as they heard the mandate overturn, chanting, “My child, my choice!”

Corinne Johnson, Director of Utah Parents United, a group that opposes the mask mandate, says she’s grateful for recommendations of health officials meant to keep children safe, but disagrees with masking.

“We really feel that as parents, no one knows a child better than a parent does. We know what’s best for our kids and when we talk about the effects of COVID, they’re more far-ranging than just the virus itself,” Johnson says. “We have the emotional, mental, physical impacts that come from masking that parents have been dealing with and seeing in their kids for the last year. They want the ability to take the risk for themselves and make that choice.” 

Johnson continues, asking, “Is the risk of COVID-19 and the delta variants for their child greater, or is the risk of another year of learning lost, is that impact greater for their child?”

To hear the full discussion, watch the conversation above.

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