School districts are split on mask-wearing, but doctors aren't

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Posted at 7:10 PM, Aug 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-10 19:48:07-04

ANDERSON TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Third-graders Andrew and Kristina Pritt are ready to be back in the classroom at Mercer Elementary, where they want to learn and play with their friends in person after a year of remote learning.

But they’re determined to do it safely.

“If we wear masks, it will help keep us safe at school,” Kristina said.

“And help us not get the delta variant,” Andrew added.

Do they sound unrealistically informed for third-graders? Not in this house. Their mother, Dr. Sarah Pritts, is one of many local health care workers who’ve made it their mission to encourage school districts to implement mask requirements.

Pritts and 27 other medical professionals wrote to Forest Hills School District and urged leadership to require masks for everyone indoors. District officials will make up their minds Wednesday.

“Not only are people dying and being in ICUs, but people are having long-term side effects” as a result of COVID-19 infections, said Pritts. “There’s the ‘long COVID syndrome,’ and it affects kids as well. It can affect kids’ memories. And that’s the biggest thing.”

Mason City School District received a similar letter from 103 doctors who share Pritts’ opinion but enacted only optional — “highly required” — masking.

In Loveland, superintendent Mike Broadwater said the board left mask-wearing up to parents but may change its policy in the future.

“Things are very fluid right now, and we want to be able to adapt and pivot,” he said.”

Dr. Josh Schaffzin, director of infection prevention and control at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, said medical guidance is clear even if district policies aren’t. Masking is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from catching COVID-19.

"The idea of masking is we need our children to go to school,” he said. “We know that seeing them out of school is harmful, and the way to do that safely is mask. If we bring our children to school and we don't protect them adequately from COVID, they are liable to become infected."

Although children experience severe illness from COVID-19 at lower rates than adults, they are still susceptible to it. And children under 12 cannot receive a vaccine, making masking and good hygiene the best ways to reduce their chances of infection.

“It will help keep us safe,” Kristina Pritts said. “We deserve a chance to stay safe.”