As summer came to a close, I noticed several fellow parents expressing opinions on school masking policies. Some parents are horrified that their school isn’t mandating masks, while others are thrilled. Those who want the masks talk about the social responsibility to be safe, while those who don’t argue that it’s not healthy for kids to wear masks all day, that they don’t really work, and that kids have a very minimal risk of getting severely sick from COVID anyway.
These opinions are strongly held, and each side argues that “the science” backs them up. The pro-mask crowd got a boost to their position earlier this summer. In July, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its COVID-19 guidance for schools and recommended that “masks should be worn indoors by all individuals [age 2 and older] who are not fully vaccinated.”
I noted at the time that this guidance made no sense. For starters, Dr. Anthony Fauci acknowledged early on in the pandemic that masks don’t keep out the virus. This was recently confirmed by a CDC study showing no difference in infection rates between schools with and without mask mandates. Another problem is that kids’ masks are really gross and collect an alarming number of other dangerous pathogens. On top of all this, school-age children have a COVID recovery rate of 99.997%,—better than their mortality risk from the seasonal flu.
And then the CDC updated its guidance again. Did they loosen these restrictions for the aforementioned reasons? Nope. The new guidance now recommended “universal indoor masking by all students [age 2 and older], staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.” The reason they cited was, of course, the Delta variant, even though CDC Director Rochelle Walensky admitted that “we don’t have any evidence” that the Delta variant makes kids sicker.
So why did the Biden administration tighten their mask guidance for schools? Was there some study that supported it? Some new data I wasn’t aware of?
Nope. It was pressure from a prominent teachers’ union. According to internal emails obtained via FOIA request by the watchdog group Americans for Public Trust, the Biden administration caved to the National Education Association (NEA). The Biden administration recommended universal masking when NEA threatened to publicly criticize them.
“The National Education Association sent a draft statement to White House officials that included harsh criticism of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s masking guidance, the emails show,” Fox News reports. “But the teachers union ultimately published a version with a much softer tone, and the CDC revised its guidance to indicate that everyone should be masked in schools, regardless of vaccination status.”
“This batch of emails came just weeks after we already exposed the teachers unions influenced the CDC on school openings,” Americans for Public Trust Executive Director Caitlin Sutherland told Fox News. “Lo and behold, less than two weeks later, they’re at it again, but this time in relation to mask guidance.”
Whenever I debate the issue of masking in schools (I’m against it), I’m told I’m politicizing the issue and not following the science. Yet we have actual evidence of the Biden administration changing guidelines, not be because of science, but because of fear from criticism from a union it wants support from. So who’s really politicizing the issue?
I don’t doubt that parents on both sides of the issue of masking in schools believe they are doing the right thing in taking their position, but the politicization of the issue is making it harder for us to even have a civil discussion about this. It’s clear though that when it comes to COVID, the Biden administration is making political, not science-based, decisions.