Experts and parents are questioning school districts which are imposing mask mandates over seasonal increases in viruses.
Districts in Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Jersey and Massachusetts are among those bringing back masks, reports ABCNews.com.
In Ann Arbor, Michigan, the superintendent announced a two-week mask mandate as students return to school after the Christmas holiday.
“The Ann Arbor Public Schools will require well-fitting masks to be worn by students, staff and visitors while indoors in AAPS schools, beginning on January 9th and during the first two weeks following the winter break,” Superintendent Jeanice Kerr Swift wrote.
But the reintroduction of the mandate led to public pushback by several parents who were concerned the decision was taken without input by medical experts and parents.
Joanna Spencer-Segal, a parent and medical doctor, questioned the efficacy and practicality of such mandates outside of a healthcare setting.
“I know that well-fitted medical masks are a really important tool that we use in the healthcare setting to prevent the transmission of respiratory infections,” she said, according to BridgeMI.com.
Spencer-Segal noted, however, that masking doesn’t significantly change transmission rates in schools, even if they work well in the highly-controlled environments of hospitals and doctors’ offices.
More importantly, the doctor and mother of two elementary-aged students in the Ann Arbor Public School District questioned how the decision to mask again was made and if the decision was evidence-based.
In Massachusetts, school districts are hearing from some who favor masking, even as one epidemiologist warns that masking measures are ineffective in schools.
“We’re calling on Superintendent Skipper and Mayor Wu to make – instead of an ask – make this required universal masking,” said Sarah Horsley, a UMass Boston lecturer in Sociology and Boston Public Schools parent, according to local WCVB News 5. Skipper and Wu are the superintendent of schools and mayor of Boston, respectively.
“It’s definitely an inconvenience. It’s harder for students, it’s harder to teach with a mask, but I think it makes sense to be cautious for a little while,” Paul Kowert, a UMass Boston associate professor of Political Science, told the local TV news station.
Yet the only medical professional interviewed by WCVB TV cautioned that school mask mandates are ineffective.
“It’s not going to have much of an impact – if any impact at all – if you implement it just in that setting and just in that time of the day,” said Dr. Shira Doron, chief infection control officer for Tufts Medicine Health System, according to WCVB.