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Mask Guidance Divides Parents, Officials Before New School Year


Joann Marcus of Fort Lauderdale, left, cheers as she listens to the Broward School Board's emergency meeting, Wednesday, July 28, 2021, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)
Mask Guidance Divides Parents, Officials Before New School Year
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U.S. health officials are recommending that children wear masks this autumn when they return to school.

Parents and policy makers however are debating whether face coverings should be required.

The delta variant of the coronavirus now threatens to effect normal behavior for the third school year. Some states have decided they will listen to the federal government’s guidance and require masks. Others will leave the decision up to parents.

The situation takes place at a time when many Americans want pandemic restrictions to end. Others fear their children will be put at risk by those who do not follow the restrictions.

In a few states, lawmakers passed laws barring schools from requiring masks.

In Connecticut, protests against mask requirements have happened outside Governor Ned Lamont’s home in Hartford. Street signs call on him to “unmask our kids.” The governor has said that he is likely to follow the latest advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Last week, the CDC recommended indoor masks for all teachers, employees, students and visitors at schools nationwide. It said people should wear masks whether or not they have been vaccinated. The agency said this was to stop the spread of the highly contagious delta variant. The CDC has said even vaccinated people are getting infected.

Alima Bryant is the mother of four children. She organizes parents in opposition to mask requirements in Branford, Connecticut. She said she believes scientists have overstated the dangers of COVID-19, especially for children. She said she will take her children out of school rather than force them to wear masks, which she believes are dangerous.

“I can imagine how often they’re touching dirty things, then touching the mask,” she said.

Other parents such as Ryan Zimmerman, of Lenexa, Kansas, fear the refusal to wear a mask will just keep the pandemic around longer.

In Johnson County, Kansas, five school districts recommend, but do not require, masks. A sixth school district has not yet decided.

Zimmerman spoke at a recent meeting of county commissioners. He said that if masks are not required “95 percent of kids won’t be wearing them.”

He said requiring masks is not government control. “It is about doing unto others as you want them to do unto you,” he said.

But another public meeting in Broward County, Florida, had to be stopped this week. More than 20 parents opposed to masks shouted at school officials and burned masks outside.

Vivian Hug is a Navy veteran. She said she was tired of the “fear mongering” and giving up “freedoms in the name of safety.”

Dr. Karyl Rattay is director of the Delaware Division of Public Health. She said there is no evidence masks are unsafe for children. She said the science is clear that face coverings have prevented the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

“Masks are a key component,” she said, to getting children back in school this year.

There is also a campaign to get older children vaccinated.

President Joe Biden has asked schools to open vaccine centers for children 12 years or older. Some states are also beginning to discuss whether to require school employees to be vaccinated or to regularly take tests for the coronavirus.

“To me that seems very reasonable,” said Dr. Joseph Kanter. He is the state health officer of the Louisiana Department of Health.

“You maintain some choice in there. And clearly most people are going to look at that and say it makes sense for them to get vaccinated,” he said.

The vaccine from the drug company Pfizer is the only U.S. vaccine authorized for children 12 years and up. Moderna expects the Food and Drug Administration to decide soon on its vaccine for children 12 years and up.

All vaccines in the U.S. are available through Emergency Use Authorization only.

Moderna also said that it expects to have enough information to ask for FDA approval of its vaccine for young children by late 2021 or early 2022. Pfizer has said it expects to ask for approval in September for children ages 5 through 11.

Kanter urges families to vaccinate all children. He said the argument that they will rarely get severely ill from COVID-19 is no longer true with the Delta variant.

I’m Susan Shand.

The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

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Words in This Story

mask – n. a covering for the face or part of the face: especially related to preventing the spread of disease

variant –n. something that is different in some way from others of the same kind

contagious –adj. able to be passed from one person or animal to another

district - n. a separate area of a country, city or town established by a government for an official purpose

fear mongering – v. spreading fear in the public about an issue on purpose

component – n. one of the parts of a system

authorized –adj. something that is legally approved or permitted by officials

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