In an open letter to school boards across Ohio, 458 doctors begged for district officials to implement universal masking as COVID-19 cases continue to multiply.
“We shouldn’t wait for Delta to spread in schools before putting mask mandates in place; we can and should act in order to prevent any unnecessary disease, death, and suffering,” the signatories wrote.
The letter, distributed Tuesday, is one among many similar letters penned by many similar medical groups since the delta variant of the novel coronavirus began to spread through the reopened world of 2021, where vaccination is widely available — although not always widely used — and many previous COVID-19 health measures have been relaxed.
But it’s distinct in an important way: Many of the doctors who signed are mothers, too, according to Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, whose name appears near the top.
The doctors who signed below her include oncologists, pediatricians, immunologists, family practitioners, psychiatrists, cardiologists and intensive care specialists. All pleaded for districts to give children “a chance to evade infection after over a year of sacrifice.”
“All available evidence indicates that SARS-CoV-2 will spread wildly in schools without mitigation efforts— including universal masking — firmly in place,” the group wrote. “The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics agree; both agencies have released guidance indicating that schools should mandate masks for students, staff, and visitors. As a local leader, you should listen to them.”
The delta variant of COVID-19 is more infectious than the strain that prompted worldwide shutdowns throughout 2020, and even vaccinated people may become sick — though few will experience life-threatening complications with the protection of a vaccine — or transmit it.
Children under 12, who are not eligible for any vaccine outside of clinical trials, are especially vulnerable to getting sick or transmitting the virus to others. And although children are less likely than adults to develop life-threatening complications if they get sick with COVID-19, they’re not immune. They may be hospitalized; they may experience “long-haul” COVID symptoms affecting their breathing for months afterward. Their infections can force their school districts to suspend classes for days to protect other students, family and workers.
“Young kids will be eligible for vaccines within the next few months,” the letter reads. “We should give them the opportunity to be vaccinated before asking them to enter our schools and classrooms unprotected. The science supports masks in schools. Wearing masks is a small sacrifice to make in order to ensure that our kids can remain safe while going to school, which we know is important for their intellectual, social, and emotional development.”
Read the whole letter: