When can kids take off their masks in school? Here's what some experts say
November 16, 2021
When can kids safely take off their masks in school? About three-fourths of the nation's largest districts required masks at the start of the school year. Recently, the calls by some parents to unmask children have grown louder, especially now that there is a COVID-19 vaccine available with emergency authorization for children as young as 5 years old.
The country is still in a pandemic that's killing more than 1,000 Americans every day. And a body of evidence shows masking, in combination with other safety measures, effectively cuts COVID-19 transmission in K-12 schools. Masks are cheaper than renovating school buildings to improve ventilation or create outdoor learning spaces, and they're (still) easier to get ahold of than COVID-19 tests, which can also be used to preempt transmission.
On the other hand, masking has continued, in many cases, into a third school semester. Several months after most adults have been eligible for vaccines, tens of millions of children are spending school days with the bottom half of their faces swathed in either fabric or, in the case of surgical masks, a substance called "melt-blown polypropylene." If they have a long commute, they could be masking for 10 or more hours a day; in some districts, masks are required even outside. Parents are concerned about social development, language learning, skin irritation and mental health.