Dear Dr. Merrigan and Blue Valley Board of Education,
I hope this message finds you and yours well. I understand that after a recent Blue Valley board meeting for 2021-2022, Blue Valley decided to go from optional mask wearing to mandatory mask wearing for K-12.
I'd like the opportunity to share our preferences. This has become such a polarizing topic, that I think many people who might not want their kids in masks will be shy about speaking up. So, I'm going to stand up and share my thoughts.
My hope is that Blue Valley will embrace flexibility and give families/students, choice and respect.
I believe the data is firmly on the side of this position. The policy response to COVID, particularly as applied to children has been wickedly inept. We now have a year-and-a half's worth of data. The data tells us several key things that argue strongly against masking children.
CHILDREN ARE AT EXTREMELY LOW RISK FROM DEATH, HOSPITALIZATION, OR OTHER ADVERSE EVENTS DUE TO COVID-19. THEY FACE 3-4x HIGHER MORTALITY RISK FROM THE FLU VS. COVID, AND A 10x RISK OF SUICIDE.
EVEN WITH DELTA, CHILDREN ARE AT EXTREMELY LOW RISK, WITH SOME DATA SUGGESTING PEDIATRIC HOSPITALIZATION RATES FOR DELTA ARE LESS THAN HALF WHAT THEY WERE FOR EARLIER VARIANTS.
CHILDREN ARE NOT SUPER-SPREADERS... THEY ARE NOT THE RESERVOIR OF COVID-19 THAT IS "PROLONGING THE PANDEMIC". MULTIPLE CONTACT TRACING STUDIES HAVE SHOWN THAT THE R0 FOR CHILDREN IS ACTUALLY BELOW ONE, MEANING THAT IS IS MATHEMATICALLY IMPOSSIBLE FOR THEM TO DRIVE THIS EPIDEMIC. THEY ARE EPIDEMIOLOGICAL DEAD ENDS.
MASK MANDATES, ESPECIALLY IN SCHOOLS DOES NOT REDUCE SCHOOL OR COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION.
An article in the New England Journal of Medicine stated, "Wearing a mask outside of health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection", and that "The desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic".
With these facts in hand, NOW is the time to take the off- ramp for masking, because there will be no other.
Additionally, universal masking in schools, while very visible and socially invasive, sadly appears to do nothing to protect the vulnerable in those populations.
Face masks worn long term may impact the socio-emotional development of children as they will be unable to "read" the faces of others who are wearing masks each day. Understanding facial expressions is an important skill that allows children to share and adapt emotions with others during social interactions. Capacity for empathy is impaired when the ability to read faces is altered. Society needs greater empathy, not less.
Until there is scientific evidence demonstrating that face masks for extended periods of time cause NO harm, then wearing face masks should be left to the discretion of the students/parents and should NOT be mandated.
Finally, as you make your decisions, I hope that you remember it's about choice and respect.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I realize this is a very fraught time, and I appreciate how challenging your position is. Thank you in advance for hearing our perspective.
All the best,
Kim Schaedler Mom of 3rd grader, at Morse Elementary who receives SPED services and speech therapy.