Another skirmish in the mask mandate wars began this week as the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) reinstituted an indoor mask requirement for all students, staff, and visitors. An update posted on the SDUSD website explained the decision.
“Effective Monday, July 18, indoor masking will be required at all schools and District offices. We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 community level according to the CDC and County data and we will communicate if there are any changes in two weeks.
“As a reminder, the District established criteria approved by our Board on May 24, 2022 that, if reached, would require a return to mandatory indoor masking. This week, one of those criteria was reached, with San Diego County entering the ‘high’ COVID-19 community level.”
Board President Dr. Sharon Whitehurst-Payne publicly defended the move during interviews with local media, but offered little encouragement to parents and students who may view the policy as unnecessary, even counterproductive.
When asked how students who began summer school without a mask mandate should now respond to the new regulation, Whitehurst-Payne shrugged, saying the children “should just wear the mask.”
While the decision has yet to be made for the upcoming fall semester, the district’s commitment to the CDC’s color-coded “threat” chart appears to be the sole determining factor.
This latest mask order came despite fluctuating case numbers that only sporadically reached the “high” measure, but nonetheless triggered the district’s mandate.
For students who don’t wish to comply in the fall, remote learning will be offered.
The efficacy of mask mandates has been challenged by some of the nation’s most respected and credentialed physicians, notably, Professor Jay Bhattacharya, of the Stanford School of Medicine.
In a tweet he wrote, “Public health in California resolutely ignores the lack of randomized evidence showing any efficacy from child masking & the harms of denying kids in-person schooling. Enough. Leave them kids alone.”
The science supporting masking the healthy is notoriously thin, with the preponderance of evidence showing masks are generally ineffective at slowing the spread of a respiratory virus.
When combined with the fact of children being at lowest risk from COVID-19 and its complications, mandating their use in schools appears to be little more than an exercise in forced conformity.
Moreover, there is a growing body of evidence revealing serious adverse health outcomes among those forced to wear masks. Balancing the inherent rights of citizens with the goals of public health officials has been difficult enough for policymakers, but when the demonstrably poor results stemming from a remote-only learning environment are considered, the scale tips dramatically against reinstituting either masking or remote learning.
Even the CDC has begun walking back recommendations to mask children, publishing a study in May 2021 showing “no statistically significant difference in schools that required students to wear masks compared to schools where masks were optional.” And the World Health Organization (WHO) does not currently recommend masks for healthy school-aged children.
And yet politicians and bureaucrats continue to argue that students must be masked during school.
At the same time, parents are growing increasingly intolerant of formulaic responses to they heard throughout the pandemic. The rigidity exhibited by education systems and teachers’ unions has driven a wedge between once supportive parents and the schools their children attend, leading some to question whether the rift can be repaired.
The education establishment, like most large bureaucracies, has a tendency toward groupthink. Programs, initiatives, and policies often spread quickly across the industry under the rubric of “best practices.”
Critics may well wonder whether SDUSD will function as the vanguard of a new, restrictive lockdown movement among educators and their unions.
However, the SDUSD School Board is now on vacation. For many parents and children in the San Diego area, making that vacation permanent might seem an improvement.