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Masks and COVID Risk in Kids - The Facts with References
Dr. Lance Pearson, PhD
PREFACE: I request that the board provide a detailed, numerical analysis of the actual risks posed by COVID to student health, as well as the risks posed by masking all kids 8+ hours per day. Please provide objective, defensible metrics (not pulled out of thin air) for your COVID polices (esp. as they relate to masks, vaccinations, and quarantine).
Allowing arbitrarily chosen general population “red” / “orange” / “periwinkle blue” designations, or unjustified quarantine rules, to determine your decisions is just “passing the buck” to some unelected, unaccountable government bureaucrat/department’s recommendation. It leads to decisions based upon only one part of the situation and abdicates your designated duty to form a holistic assessment of the real risks, costs & benefits. To be clear, the current policies are irrational (detailed below) in my assessment, but at least choose and then defend SOME objective, numerical standard on its own merits.
(1) COVID-19 almost certainly will continue being of minimal risk to otherwise healthy kids. The board’s hysteria, as expressed by universal child masking policies (or potential lockdowns or vaccine mandates), is utterly unjustifiable based on the actual risks.
As of 8/13/2021, the CDC itself (which, if nothing else, tracks deaths reasonably reliably) states 361 people under 18 have died WITH COVID since the start of 2020 (as one state example, 3 or fewer kids from KY have died of either Flu or COVID).
A study in the CDC’s weekly monitoring report suggested that 46% of these cases did NOT enter the hospital due to COVID related complications (eg hit by a car, but eventually had a positive test).
So, Roughly 194 kids have died FROM COVID (about 130 for an average 12 month period).
During same time, 53000 kids have died from causes OTHER THAN COVID. 273 times as likely, 273!!
If anything, that 194 deaths FROM COVID number is an OVER-estimation.
The CDC (inexplicably) hasn’t studied the comorbidities of these deceased young people but, if older people are any indication, it’s likely their incidence of severe other illnesses along with COVID is far higher than the general population (and rarely is the death actually FROM COVID). One analysis looking at this in England found Childhood death WITH COVID to be VERY rare, usually in otherwise very ill kids, and not likely FROM COVID (only 41%, 25/61): https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-01897-w
Now, given 74.6M people under 18 at the last census in 2020 (disregarding population growth), that puts the chance of a person under 18 dying FROM COVID per annum at no more than 1 in 573,846.
THAT MEANS, ACCORDING TO THE CDC, IT IS LITERALLY MORE LIKELY THAT A STUDENT WILL BE HIT BY LIGHTNING (1 in 500,000) THAN DIE FROM COVID.
If we were to HYPOTHETICALLY ASSUME that the COVID mandates by the board are rational based on the level of danger… so much so that COVID risks justify ripping these decision about child safety from their parents, and imposing one size fits all universal masking for 8 hours per day on little kids, then contact tracing & quarantining healthy kids… how about these FAR more serious child health threats?
Cross-referencing the yearly death rate FROM COVID, 130, with the causes of youth death from the NEJM (https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsr1804754, appendix https://www.nejm.org/doi/suppl/10.1056/NEJMsr1804754/suppl_file/nejmsr1804754_appendix.pdf) students are:
Side Note: U Chicago researchers have found a backyard pool ~11 times as dangerous for kids
as an insufficiently secured firearm in the home.
Has there been a proportionate response to ANY of these FAR MORE SERIOUS threats, if we assume the COVID hysteria in kids is appropriate?
(2) There is nearly no conclusive scientific evidence that real-world, clothed masking of the public works to diminish population spread, or mortality. Here are 31 studies finding it, in fact, provides either no or minimal (and with qualifiers) benefit for COVID-19, or other similar respiratory viruses:
For kids in schools (our focus) the case is even worse than that general population masking case, as
(a) there are well established downsides (social, developmental, and physical) to prolonged masking of kids, especially in younger children (I reserved most citations, as the board has conceded as much)
(b) WHEREAS there is no evidence that conclusively demonstrates masking of kids in schools has any positive effect on their own morbidity or mortality, nor evidence for improved hospitalization or death rates in the broader community related to COVID-19.
Elissa Schechter-Perkins, the director of Emergency Medicine Infectious Disease Management at Boston Medical Center: “A year ago, I said, ‘Masks are not the end of the world; why not just wear a mask?’… But the world has changed, there are real downsides to masking children for this long, with no known end date, and without any clear upside.” She continued, “I’m not aware of any studies that show conclusively that kids wearing masks in schools has any (positive) effect on their own morbidity or mortality or on the hospitalization or death rate in the community around them.”
Let’s remember that the CDC is an agency of the US executive branch (ie part of the Biden admin), and the Director of the CDC is a Biden political appointee with no actual CDC experience. To illustrate the extent to which the “science” (now earning quotes) has been politicized here…
(1) (NON-SCIENTISTS) KY Administrators JCPS’ Dr. Marty Pollio and KY BOE’s Dr. Jason Glass both tried to pass off a widely publicized (and mis-characterized) Duke report on masking in NC schools to justify (inappropriately) their boards imposing universal masking.
Dr. Pollio got immediately called out (by me) as that report (a) was not peer reviewed, and (b) lacked any control group (only studied schools with masking). As one science writer humorously quipped: they could have just as validly concluded that kids wearing shoes prevents COVID effects.
(2) The CDC itself conducted the most extensive examination of the topic (with a control group, as any competent researcher would use) studying 90K+ kids in Georgia across a variety of mitigation strategies. They buried the lede to avoid embarrassingly contradicting their own recommendation elsewhere: “Mask requirements for teachers and staff members (RR = 0.63) and improved ventilation (RR = 0.61) were associated with lower incidence… BUT lower incidence in schools that required mask use among students was not statistically significant compared with schools where mask use was optional.”
(3) Of the 17 different studies cited as evidence that masks on students are effective by the CDC in its (Biden admin. led) K-12 guidance, not one study looked at student mask use in isolation from other mitigation measures, or against a control. Some even suggested that student non-masking correlated to lower transmission rates.
Universal masking policies and general hysteria about the danger of COVID to kids are very little more than performative political theater.
For healthy kids, their real risk from COVID is TINY. There is little reason to think they are in serious danger, even if they are unfortunate enough to contract COVID (mask or not). FOR KIDS, COVID 19 is roughly equivalent to the seasonal flu.
- Keep them at home and quarantined, IF they show any signs of flu-like illness.
- Quarantines of healthy kids when there is VERY little evidence of asymptomatic spread, and nearly no evidence of kids serving as a significant COVID spread vector, makes no sense.
If your child (or members of your family they frequently contact) has serious comorbidities or other COVID risk factors (like a compromised immune system), there is essentially no scientific reason to believe a cloth mask is going to make any difference as an preventative measure to keep them safe. – - Don’t trust these masks. The mask manufacturers themselves know they are ineffective for this role:
While the benefits of masking kids has essentially no scientific support, the dangers to the development of young kids being masked for 8 hours+ per day are far more established and likely (esp. in kids below grade 6).
- Open the school windows (perhaps with fans) to ventilate, keep sick kids quarantined, stop quarantining healthy kids (esp. widespread “contact tracing”), and return masking/health decisions for kids to their parents where those decisions/responsibilities belong.