COVID Counterpunch

Follow The Science: Stop Masking Children

Photos by Mladen Borisov & Alexander Schimmeck 

In the latest installment of head-scratching COVID recommendations from our experts, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued updated face mask guidance for unvaccinated children over age two.

Face masks can be safely worn by all children 2 years of age and older, including the vast majority of children with underlying health conditions, with rare exception. Children 2 years of age and older have demonstrated their ability to wear a face mask. In addition to protecting the child, the use of face masks significantly reduces the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and other respiratory infections within schools and other community settings. Home use of face masks also may be particularly valuable in households that include medically fragile, immunocompromised, or at-risk adults and children.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, use of face masks should continue until the child or adolescent is considered fully vaccinated – two weeks after receipt of the final COVID-19 vaccine dose.

If the AAP’s guidance seems out of step with all we’ve learned in the past year about kids and COVID, that’s because it is.

When the pandemic began, taking precautions was perfectly rational as we sought to better understand the virus. Masking kids and closing schools seemed prudent in the short term.

But any justification for continuing these measures quickly evaporated.

We now know that COVID is less dangerous for children than for adults, with a fatality rate of 0.000405%, and that kids are at little risk of being the main vectors of infection.

Despite the evidence, and the now-ubiquitous vaccines available to literally anyone over age 12, the selfish neurotics in positions of authority are still calling for unnecessary masking of our kids.

Masking is worth questioning at all ages, but kids have specific developmental needs that must be considered. The AAP’s guidance fails to account for any needs kids might have beyond the small likelihood of contracting or transmitting COVID.

As adults, we may be annoyed by masking, and find the government’s masking rhetoric frustrating, but we can generally manage based on a lifetime of experience reading faces and vocal tones.

Kids (especially young kids) are still learning these skills. Reading facial expressions is one of the most important aspects of learning social and emotional cues.

Research has demonstrated that young children tend to recognize people by focusing on only one feature, instead of the whole face, and that masking reduces a child’s ability to process faces by 20%.

In a recent article in The New York Times, Kang Lee, a professor of applied psychology and human development at the University of Toronto, outlined other potential problems masks might pose for children, including impaired facial and emotional recognition as well as speech recognition and communication.

In a survey of German parents with schoolchildren, 68% reported that their children had suffered multiple impairments due to masking.

In this publication we report the results from the parents, who entered data on a total of 25,930 children. The average wearing time of the mask was 270 minutes per day. Impairments caused by wearing the mask were reported by 68% of the parents. These included irritability (60%), headache (53%), difficulty concentrating (50%), less happiness (49%), reluctance to go to school/kindergarten (44%), malaise (42%) impaired learning (38%) and drowsiness or fatigue (37%).

It’s also worth asking how we might be damaging kids not just socially and emotionally, but physically as well.

Masks can expose wearers to bacteria, mold, and fungi if not cleaned or replaced daily. One can imagine this is particularly true of youngsters in a day care or school setting who may repeatedly touch or drop their masks.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, a team of Italian plastic surgeons have warned that the persistent pressure of the elastic ear loops could leave young kids with permanently protruding ears.

But kids are resilient, you may argue. It’s true that some kids may find ways to work around the masks with few long-term consequences, but a cavalier belief in their innate plasticity is not a strategy to avoid harm.

Anyone saying with certainty that masking kids won’t have harmful long-term effects is either lying or ignorant. No one can know yet what all the effects may be.

At minimum, kids are being made miserable by having their faces covered, with the implication that they are contaminated, and therefore dangerous, or constantly under attack from an invisible foe.

These fears are the projections of adults and are not reflected either in reality or the data, and we have been punishing innocent children for over a year to provide false comfort to adults.

It’s time to stop.

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