Hundreds of thousands of students across the US will be forced to wear face masks in class when schools go back this week as controversial mandates make a return.
Despite Covid infection rates plateauing for months, elementary and high schools in New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have made face coverings a condition of entry for students returning from the holidays.
Education officials claim the policy is to prevent a boom in respiratory illnesses after increased mixing during the first normal Christmas and New Year in years.
But there is little evidence that face masks actually reduce infection rates, and mounting research shows the mandates stunted children’s social development and education, and robbed them of vital immunity to other seasonal bugs like flu and RSV.
There are growing concerns that damaging Covid policies could creep back into American life after the US Government announced all passengers from China – suffering a major outbreak – would be tested upon entry, despite no proof that policy works either.
Despite Covid infection rates plateauing for months, elementary and high schools in New Jersey , Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have made face coverings a condition of entry for students returning from the holidays. A week-long mask mandate was put in place in a school in Washington last month and several states have issued mask recommendations to the public
Residents of Seattle, Washington, live in one of 12 counties that are now recommending residents to wear masks (left). Los Angeles County is under a mask advisory after officials warned a mandate could come soon in the state earlier this month (right)
Philadelphia public schools will require students and staff to wear masks in the classroom for the first ten days after winter break, from January 3 to 13. Officials cite the Covid, RSV and flu ‘tripledemic’ as to why masks are needed (file photo)
Covid infections in the US are running at around 400,000 per week now compared to 4 million this time last year and 1.3 million the previous year.
Weekly cases have been stable since late summer, which has been attributed to high levels of immunity in populations through vaccination and waves of infections.
Schools in New Jersey are justifying the latest mask mandates due to the state suffering increases in Covid, flu and RSV cases.
It comes as 22 states were recording ‘very high’ flu activity in the week before Christmas – down from 26 the week prior. Six states were recording the highest levels of transmission, down from eight in early December.
America’s flu season came unseasonably early, although cases of both flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cratered for the second straight week just before Christmas — meaning the ‘tripledemic’ in America could soon reach its end.
RSV is also a few weeks ahead of the flu crisis. Cases peaked in November but rates remain very high. Both have led to hospitals, particularly pediatric hospitals, being overwhelmed.
The bacterial infection Strep A is also rising among children and has killed at least two in Colorado. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an urgent advisory message about the infection before Christmas, notifying doctors and public health authorities of the situation.
Paradoxically, masks and lockdowns were blamed for the surge in minors because it prevented them from developing the natural immunity they would have otherwise gained.
Paterson Public Schools in Passaic County and Camden City School District in New Jersey became the latest to enforce masks indoors for students.
Paterson Public Schools’ new rule will begin from tomorrow (January 3) and apply to its 25,000 students from pre-kindergarten through to 12th grade.
In a letter to parents, the school district’s superintendent Eileen Shafer said: ‘I know this is a relief to some, and a frustration to others. No matter what your position may be, I ask for your cooperation.’
She added: ‘Please continue to maintain universal masking throughout our buildings and we encourage you to take all other precautions against the spread of the Covid-19, RSV, flu virus including frequent hand washing, avoiding large gatherings, and staying home when sick.’
Camden City School District, which has 75,000 students between kindergarten and 12th grade, will ask anyone entering its buildings to mask up inside for at least two weeks, until January 17.
The school district superintendent said in a letter to families that the move was ‘in an effort to be proactive and remain vigilant’.
The school district of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania is also forcing students to wear masks for at least 10 days, starting January 3 and ending January 13 if it is not extended.
Meanwhile, Boston Public Schools (BPS) in Massachusetts announced on Friday that students and staff would be asked to wear face coverings between January 4 and January 13.
BPS said in a statement the temporary masking was an ‘ask and expectation’ and ‘not a mandate’, and said no one would be sent home or disciplined if they refused to wear one.
And in Washington state, Wilson Elementary school mandated masks for a week in December due to rising respiratory illnesses leaving roughly 30 percent of its students absent on one day.