HOUSTON, Texas (KIAH) Students deserve a safe place to learn. As of July 16, 2021, there have been 5,607 COVID-19 cases among those age 0-19 in Texas. Although children are less likely to contract the virus that causes COVID-19, the disease can cause multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, affecting many different organ systems, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. Meanwhile new, potentially more contagious variants, such as Delta, are still emerging.
Masking is one way we can keep children safe from the virus, especially those who are at a vulnerable young age, for whom vaccines are not yet available. Federal health authorities recommend universal masking in schools, even among the fully vaccinated. In contention with these guidelines, Gov. Greg Abbott has prohibited localities from enacting mask or vaccine mandates. Texas schools will also no longer be offering virtual options.
The conflicting messages from state and federal leaders are confusing and frustrating for many families. Children under 12 are not yet vaccine eligible, and “breakthrough” infections mean many are still at risk. Parents face uncertainty on how to keep their children and loved ones healthy.
“Parents should not have to become experts in disease transmission,” says CHILDREN AT RISK president and CEO Dr. Bob Sanborn. “Clear concise messaging allows the public to follow best practice guidance and make the best decisions for their families and community.”
Local leaders are able to take information from multiple sources and make recommendations that best fit their community. Many localities do not have testing capabilities, allowing timely case detection. National level infection information is, therefore, lagged. Local communities are in a better position to gauge, based on available data and local conditions such as hospital capacity, in case of surge or outbreak.
Independent School Districts and local leaders are best positioned to understand their needs and any necessary precautions. Currently, both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the CDC recommend masking for children and those who are around children. The Texas Pediatric Society supports the AAP recommendation. CHILDREN AT RISK supports the recommendation for local control over decisions to mask in public places, including schools.