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Pediatricians say universal masking is “the best policy”

The AAP made a recommendation for all students ages two years and up need to wear a mask this upcoming school year.
Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 7:48 PM CDT
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - The school year is right around the corner and with COVID cases on the rise. The American Academy of Pediatrics made a recommendation for all students ages two years and up to wear a mask this upcoming school year.

Dr. Nola Ernest, Pediatrician at Enterprise Pediatric Clinic, said she strongly believes that children need to get back into the classroom with their peers and have the opportunity for in person learning.

COVID cases are on the rise statewide and Dr. Ernest said it is expected schools will reflect the same, to avoid that, students need to grab their mask.

“In order to mitigate that spread and give our children the best chance of having a complete school year in school, universal masking is absolutely the best policy,” Dr. Ernest said.

Dr. Ernest said. regardless of whether or not school districts choose to enforce universal masking, it’s still very important that parents send their children with masks back to school.

“There is some belief that COVID is not very dangerous among children, but that is not true,” Dr. Ernest said.

According to dr. Ernest, one in 100 children that have COVID will be hospitalized.

“Children can also experience long term or long haul COVID symptoms and so that is something that we would never want any child to experience if it could be prevented,” Dr. Ernest said.

She said masks are safe for children and they do not impede on breathing. She said there may be discomfort, but practice makes perfect.

“Pediatricians often talk about the Swiss cheese model of safety and the Swiss cheese model of safety is that every layer of protection that we offer is not perfect, and masks are not perfect,” Dr. Ernest said. “There are going to be times where they cant be worn like during school lunches and there are going to be times where they are going to be worn incorrectly, but they are an extra layer of protection and if we combine these with other layers of protection that also have holes in them, the chances of all those holes lining up decreases and so the chances of getting COVID decreases the more layers of protection we add, including masks”

Dr. Ernest said the pandemic has affected children’s physical, mental and emotional health.

“School allows for opportunity for socialization and without that social interaction, many kids have been seeing an increase in anxiety and depression symptoms,” Dr. Ernest said. “On top of the fact that many of their family members have been suffering with illnesses due to COVID, have been suffering with long term illnesses or even death due to COVID and this has been very excruciating for kids.”

Several students were forced to navigate through learning virtually, and missing out on routine therapies.

“Schools offer things like physical therapy and occupational therapy, speech therapy for students and these are therapies that are very difficult to do over virtual learning and so many students that need extra therapy were just unable to get those opportunities during the school year,” Dr. Ernest said.

Dr. Ernest adds there are some children with developmental challenges that may not be able to tolerate a mask – and that should be discussed with their pediatrician to come up with a solution.

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