Let’s establish an important fact up front: masks are one of the most important ways to contain the spread of COVID-19.
- A review of 19 randomized controlled trials found that universal mask wearing is important for preventing COVID, where transmission may occur before a person becomes symptomatic.
- Countries that introduced mandated masking within 30 days of the first case had dramatically fewer COVID cases than those that delayed beyond 100 days.
- States requiring mask-wearing in public are estimated to have averted between 230,000-450,000 cases of COVID between April and May 2020.
- Universal mask wearing can build solidarity in our communities and combat fear and stigma that our loved ones and neighbors may face around wearing a mask.
In North Carolina, only about one-quarter of teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 have received both shots. Students under 12 are still ineligible for vaccines.
While children are less likely than adults to die of COVID, they can catch and spread the disease, endangering staff and families. 40 percent of North Carolina adults remain unvaccinated and thousands more are immunocompromised. Transmission of the virus propagates variants that will prolong the pandemic.
In addition to spreading the disease, children are not invulnerable to complications. At least 337 children have died from COVID, including an eight-year-old girl from Durham. At least 4,196 children have developed Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). MIS-C can lead to life-threatening problems with the heart and other organs in the body and has led to at least 37 deaths. Even if the risks are small, no child deserves to face lethal risks from preventable disease.
Given the above, the Governor must work with the Council of State to require masks in our schools for all students and staff. With the delta variant causing new cases to rise at alarming rates, delegating this decision to the state’s 115 school boards and the state’s 200 charter schools will be disastrous. Simply encouraging school leaders to do the right thing is not enough.
On Thursday, the Governor indicated he recommends that schools require masks, but he will not exercise his authority to mandate their use. As a result, too many school boards controlled by conservatives, will largely eschew masks, exacerbating spread in their communities. Already, Beaufort County, Cabarrus County, Caldwell County, Carteret County, Catawba County, Clay County, Cleveland County, Gaston County, Harnett County, Haywood County, Iredell-Statesville, Mooresville, Lincoln County, Madison County, Pender County, Randolph County, Rowan-Salisbury, Sampson County, Stokes County, Union County, and Watauga County have voted to make masks optional in their schools. Many more are sure to follow.
In addition to being bad science, the Governor’s most recent order puts incredible pressure on boards wanting to maintain a mask mandate. Read more