Why Masks Should Be On Your Back-to-School List This Fall
Jul 27, 2021
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) recommend that all children have the opportunity to get back to school full-time this fall, without the requirement of remote or hybrid learning models. In-person education is important for learning and for a child’s social and emotional health.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, remote learning increased gaps for children with disabilities, children living in poverty, and children from historically underrepresented populations. Having a typical routine, alongside classmates and teachers, is important for all kids.
How Can We Keep Kids in School Full Time This Fall?
We can follow the guidelines we had last year to prevent COVID-19 cases from spreading. This will help keep students in school, avoid outbreaks, and protect children, their families and our communities.
How Can We Protect Kids From COVID-19?
Any student who can get the COVID-19 vaccine should do so. Immunization is the best and most effective way to protect our children from COVID-19 infection. High vaccination rates in our communities and schools will help end the need for other safety measures. If you have concerns about vaccines, reach out to your child’s pediatrician who can answer questions and give you more information.
Children over 2 years old, especially those who are unvaccinated, should wear masks. There are many reasons why masking remains important, including:
All elementary students, and many of our middle and high school students aren’t vaccinated.
There are continued concerns for new variants that more easily spread among children and teens.
Children, although not as common, can get ill from COVID-19 and the use of masks last school year helped prevent the spread of the virus.
Following safety protocols, including the use of masks, will prevent students from having to go into quarantine and miss class if there is an exposure to COVID-19.
What About Outdoor Activities?
Guidelines for outdoor masking remain the same. Kids should mask outdoors if they cannot keep social distance or if there are large groups close together. If children are participating in sports that require a lot of activity, like running, they do not have to wear a mask.
How Do I Prepare My Child for Wearing a Mask This School Year?
Many children were hopeful that school would look typical in the fall with no safety measures needed. However, if schools return without safety measures (including masks) there is a large risk for an outbreak that may lead to a return to remote learning.
For kids, going back and forth from in-person to remote learning will lead to continued disruptions and anxiety. Structure is important for everyone and vaccination, masks, and other safety measures like ventilation and cleaning protocols is our best chance of having a successful start to the school year.
The best way to prepare your child is to normalize mask wearing. Kids take their cues from their parents. Make wearing a mask a common practice; it is something everyone is doing to keep each other safe and healthy. If your child hasn’t been wearing a mask during indoor activities this summer, it is a good idea to begin to do so again.
Sara Bode, MD, is a primary care pediatrician and the medical director of Nationwide Children's Hospital's Care Connection School-Based Health and Mobile Clinics. She is also the co-director of the Pediatric Residency Advocacy Training at Nationwide Children's Hospital.
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