On August 23, by the order of the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Governor Andy Beshear officially rescinded his mask mandate in K-12 schools. This act eliminated the only obstacle facing the Archdiocese in implementing a parental choice, mask-optional policy for the 2021–2022 school year. The parents in the Archdiocese implore you to make this change immediately.
To date, there is zero evidence that masks in a school setting do anything to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2. A Georgia study of over 90,000 students did not find any evidence that masks limited viral transmission among children in schools. (1) This is confirmed by decades of research on masks. This virus is primarily spread by aerosols that cloth and surgical masks do little to prevent over the several-hour period of a school day. (2,3,4) Cloth and surgical masks worn for longer than 20-30 minutes do not provide protection against the spread of disease. (3,4) Countries around the world-the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, and more–have exempted children from wearing masks for their safety and overall well-being.(5) We need to join them in their measured, data- and evidence-based approach.
COVID-19, even the Delta variant of COVID-19, does not pose a particular threat to children. The data supports this. As of August 21, 2021 the CDC hospitalization rate of children aged 5-17 is still well below its peak in December 2020 (33 children per 100,000 versus 52 respectively).(6) The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that 0.2%-1.9% of child Covid cases resulted in hospitalization. (7) The infection fatality rate for children remains between 0%-0.03%. (7) The mortality rate for 5-14 year olds from influenza in 2018 in the United States was 0.4 per 100,000. (8) The Lancet found that the mortality rate for children aged 5-14 from Covid is 0.16 per 100,000. (9) Furthermore, a Johns Hopkins analysis found that nearly all of the children who have died of COVID-19 were already suffering from severe underlying conditions, such as leukemia. (10) COVID-19 for children is less dangerous than influenza. (11) Every adult in Kentucky has had a chance to be vaccinated. In fact, 77% of adults in Jefferson County have received at least one dose of the available vaccines. (12) It is unethical to force children into prolonged mask-wearing to protect unvaccinated adults.
Masks are not a neutral policy. There are very real physical and psychological harms associated with prolonged mask wearing for children. (13) Bacteria, fungus, candida, and other pathogens have been found to grow on masks after just two hours, even in sterile operating rooms. (14) An NIH study showed that cloth masks were worse than no mask at all for protecting against the spread of infections. (15) Infectious particles build up on cloth and surgical masks putting the wearer more at risk. (15) In Ireland, a comprehensive study was done on masking children and the psychological consequences that resulted. It found that the harm of masking children, including the risk of anxiety and breathing difficulties, was too great to justify a student mask mandate. (16,17) The United States has yet to study what the long-term social, physical and educational harms may be. Mask wearing encourages mouth breathing which can impact facial development, cause mouth deformities or an elongated face. (17) Until this summer we have widely accepted that for human beings facial recognition is paramount to language and social development. Experts from around the world are speaking out on the behalf of children, and we urge the Archdiocese to recognize the scientific evidence and end the mask mandate that is detrimental to our children’s development.
We are not asking for a mask ban. Any parent who wishes for their child to continue to wear a mask should be supported in that decision. We are asking for parental choice, which is justified by the evidence. Please follow the science and enact a mask-optional policy for students, thereby allowing parents to decide what is best for their children.