It is easy to miss the pandemic’s full effect on children living in a free county that bucked many COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines in May 2020. Where I live, children are playing together at parks and participating in sports and other activities. They often go without masks outside of schools that may require them, and no one finds it strange. During a recent visit with family who live in another state, listening to my young relatives was a shock to my conscience when I confronted the reality that many children live with.
Teachers and health care workers provided piano lessons, dance lessons, and speech therapy online. There were craft kits to tie-dye masks, but not because their parents believe masks keep children healthy. Instead, the community around them enforces this view whether you are walking into a gas station, or a grocery store, or the cooperative school a few days a week as a homeschooler. Some parents in the carpool require masks in the car. So, wearing one might as well be fun.
Children under ten wearing masks for any reason flies in the face of what we know about COVID-19. Even President Joe Biden told a young girl that children do not often become ill from COVID-19 and are not likely to make their parents sick. Dr. Fauci’s recent recommendation that children wear masks while playing outside is also wholly anti-science. Since last April, we have known that UV light kills COVID-19, and outdoor transmission has never been a primary vector.
How the pandemic impacts these children became evident when my niece told me a story and took the time to explain that it happened “before COVID.” In other words, on March 16, 2020, when our health experts came out with 15 Days to Slow the Spread, this child’s life changed. COVID-19 and the preventative measures, many of them obviously useless at this point, are a bright line of demarcation in her short life. At ten, she sees her life as divided into before and after.
That was when I considered the craft kit a bit more carefully. A company that makes activities for children took the time to create a kit to make colorful masks. Without severe resistance and an insistence that we return to normal for children, masks are not going away. Too many people have invested too much in the trappings related to the practice, and suggesting it may not be effective and may even be potentially harmful for children is not allowed.
How invested is the society in the idea that masks are required? A New Hampshire track coach was fired for refusing to mandate his athletes wear them while competing outdoors. Bradley Keyes, who coached track and field for Pembroke Academy, wrote an e-mail to the athletic director at the school stating:
“I will not stand up in front of the kids and lie to them and tell them that these masks are doing anything worthwhile out in an open field with wind blowing and the sun shining,” Keyes wrote, later adding, “These insane policies are robbing kids of once in a lifetime opportunities for no valid reason other than irrational fears and going along with the sheep.”
Unlike the school’s policy, Keyes’s assertions are based on the science of UV light and outdoor transmission. He was fired, anyway. In another case, an outbreak of strep was identified in a school district in Shepherd, Michigan, that had mandatory masking. It happened so quickly, the school district canceled classes as a result. Strep passes through the same droplet transmission that COVID-19 does. It is also more deadly for children than COVID-19. One concerned citizen correctly noted this when proposing masks could be the vector:
The research literature on masks with respect to viral particles (primarily influenza) is quite mixed on their efficacy. The literature on medical masks in an operating room environment seems fairly clear that masks don’t have a statistically significant effect on post-clean-surgery wound infection. But to the extent that bacteria are orders of magnitude larger than viruses, it seems likely that any that come to contaminate the inside of a mask would create a serious rebreathing accelerant for the child wearing the mask, whereas otherwise the bacteria would be dispersed and diluted in the environment.
Denis Rancourt, a researcher at the Ontario Civil Liberties Association, was removed from ResearchGate for proposing this heresy in a review of research posted in February. He compiled research on the physical and mental health implications of mask-wearing and the cognitive development barriers they present for infants and children. Everything he cited was existing research published by reputable journals. Rancourt was locked out of his account for contradicting the current public health advice because, for the gatekeepers, the science is settled. Which is another anti-scientific contention.
Baruch Vainshelboim, Ph.D., with the Cardiology Division, Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System at Stanford University, submitted a similar research review to the U.S. National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health. The paper had many of the same findings Rancourt’s did. Vainshelboim summarized the physiological and psychological effects of wearing a facemask and the potential health consequences in a chart. Many of them are rooted in breathing in air with a higher percentage of carbon dioxide and a lower rate of oxygen for prolonged periods:
It is unconscionable that political leaders and school administrators can mandate masks with the number of downsides noted with long-term use. Dr. Fauci using his megaphone to encourage parents to continue covering their children’s faces in the low-risk outdoor environment is absurd. Many of our most vulnerable citizens have been vaccinated, and we can protect those who have not. There is also zero evidence that areas with mask mandates performed any better with COVID-19 than those that did not mandate them.
There is an entire generation of children whose lives have been irreparably altered for too long, depending solely on where they live. It is time for them to get back to life as it was “before COVID.”