On Monday, August 23, the Putnam County Board of Education met in an emergency session to reconsider its decision of Thursday, August 19, to require mandatory masks for all students and staff for the first month of the 2021-22 school year.
At the emergency session, the Board voted unanimously to recommend masking for children and staff but not to make it mandatory. The policy change allowed a mask-free beginning to the 2021-22 school year on Tuesday, August 24. Masking will not become mandatory unless ordered by public health officials.
Public health officials are under pressure from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to require masking of all individuals, age 2 and older, in in-door settings. The CDC issued this recommendation in July.
In so doing, the CDC ignored the findings of a large-scale study of COVID transmission in American schools which it published in the last week of May. Data collected from 169 elementary schools in Georgia between mid November and mid December of 2020 showed that masking of unvaccinated teachers, coupled with improved ventilation of fresh air, resulted in a lower incidence of the virus among the unvaccinated teachers. The same study found that distancing, classroom barriers, and student masking did not produce a lower incidence of COVID transmission. The study did not examine mask-wearing independent of fresh air ventilation. The study did not report any mask-wearing benefit to children.
There are no large-scale studies that conclude that children are safer with masks than without masks. That said, there are studies that reveal masks have short-lived effectiveness. Cloth masks, the type used by children in schools, have been shown to produce effective protection against spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus for 27 minutes. Cloth masks do not deter the spread of the virus beyond 27 minutes.
The masks, coupled with virtual schooling and other preventative measures, did not prevent 368 COVID deaths of those younger than 18 years during the last year. Before COVID, in 2018-2019, 477 individuals in the 18 and younger group died from seasonal flu.
Scientific data does not support the CDC’s mandate for in-door mask wearing. Data does, however, support fresh air ventilation of classrooms and vaccinations for adults. Studies of vaccine benefit for children under 12 have not been published.