Is it a good idea to require children to wear masks in school?

With the start of the new school year fast approaching, a Garden State pediatric infectious disease specialist insists the answer is yes, especially because younger children cannot get vaccinated yet.

Two separate lawsuits have been filed by parents groups seeking to block Gov. Phil Murphy’s school mask mandate on the grounds that it violates Constitutional rights, and is unfair because it denies parental choice.

Dr. Meg Fisher, who is serving as a special advisor to New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, said masking for younger children is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and by pediatric infectious disease doctors.

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If a student has COVID and doesn’t realize it, they will be expelling droplets that can infect others. Masks help contain those droplets.

Masks also filter air breathed in by the user, blocking contaminated droplets.

“Masks are our best protection and to not use them for everyone really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” she said.

Fisher said masks do not impede breathing in children, despite what some people may have heard through social media.

“There’s no concern about getting enough oxygen in or not getting the carbon dioxide out,” she said.

She also stressed masks do not pose any bacteria risk. The opposite is true.

“Normally when there’s no masks on, they put their hands in their mouth, so if anything, the masks are decreasing the amount of bacteria that gets from a child’s hand into their mouth or nose,” she said.

When children were masked and attending school earlier this year there was virtually no influenza or respiratory syncytial virus. That virus can be serious in younger children but usually causes only mild cold-like symptoms in older kids

She said these viruses are normally spread frequently in school settings.

“The fact that everyone was wearing a mask and social distancing protected children from getting them," Fisher said.

She also stressed masks will keep children in school and prevent transmission of COVID, which can result in student quarantines and even school closures.

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