By: Paul Cully
[Editor’s Note: This commentary by Paul Cully is in response to Travis Rowley’s Letter to the Editor]:
Covid-19 infections in the 0-17 age group are rising exponentially (see the graph below). Consequently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged caution for K-12 students while in their schools.
The level of community transmission in Middlesex County is in the second highest category, just below the “High” category (see the graphic below). As much as many want to believe isolated opinions about the transmission of the virus, the most recent data do indicate that the current surge is real, that we are still learning (the hard way) of the effects of relying on outdated data, wishful thinking, and mere opinions, and that COMMON SENSE informs us that, as individuals and as a community, taking preventative precautions is the prudent course of action.
You posit that the risk to children is so small that we should reject CDC guidelines. I assert that to knowingly risk infection, hospitalization, and even death to even one child, is irresponsible, to put it mildly.
Westford schools do not have HVAC systems sufficient to remove the airborne Covid-19 virus particles from the air. This, alone, should direct us to require masks in Westford schools.
Mr. Rowley, you write that:
Research informs us that a mask often becomes “a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi, which can undermine mucosal viral immunity.”
Simply put: Masking – the retention and collection of naturally expelled waste and dangerous pathogens held close to the body’s airways for consecutive hours several days a week – injures our kids. Obviously.
The alternative to retaining “naturally expelled waste and dangerous pathogens close to the body” is to expel them into the air others breath – to share them among the other students. Therefore, what seems “obvious” is that capturing each individual’s “naturally expelled waste and pathogens” into a mask that can be changed out (or in the case of cloth masks, washed), is clearly the better of the two alternatives.
Simply put: Masking helps prevent community spread – it ultimately saves more lives than NOT masking. In this instance it is truly far better to be safe than sorry, regardless of what anyone prefers to believe or espouse. Prevention over experimentation. Anti-maskers exacerbate the pandemic.
New Admissions of Patients with Confirmed COVID-19 per 100,000 Population by Age Group, United States [Aug 01, 2020 – August 14, 2021]
Level of Community Transmission in Middlesex County, Massachusetts
Given new evidence on the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant, CDC has updated the guidance for fully vaccinated people. CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place.
CDC Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools
Updated Aug. 5, 2021
- Due to the circulating and highly contagious Delta variant, CDC recommends universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.
- In addition to universal indoor masking, CDC recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms to reduce transmission risk. When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, such as when schools cannot fully re-open while maintaining these distances, it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as screening testing. Revised to emphasize the COVID-19 prevention strategies most important for in-person learning for K-12 schools.
Updated August 9
- Added language on the importance of offering in-person learning, regardless of whether all of the prevention strategies can be implemented at the school.
- For example, because of the importance of in-person learning, schools where not everyone is fully vaccinated should implement physical distancing to the extent possible within their structures (in addition to masking and other prevention strategies), but should not exclude students from in-person learning to keep a minimum distance requirement. — Paul Cully, former Westford resident.