Fight Over Masks in San Diego Moving to the Schools

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The issue of mask-wearing is once again front and center, but this time the fight is over whether students should have to wear masks indoors at school.

"It’s been uncomfortable, and when we take tests, it really distracts," said third grader Brady Ryan. "We just can’t breathe,”

Brady is one of hundreds of students and parents who marched in Carlsbad with the group Let Them Breathe, which is advocating for mask choice for students in school. Organizers say they want the California Department of Public Health to change its guidelines, which require children in kindergarten through 12th grade to wear masks indoors, whether they're vaccinated or not.

“They need to be able to share their smile with each other; they need to be able to see each other’s faces and communicate,” said the group’s founder, Sharon McKeeman. “They’re having trouble paying attention in class, anxiety -- all those things are on the rise -- and they need to breathe the fresh air.”

"I think that in elementary schools where no one other than some staff are vaccinated, masks should be mandatory, for now,” said Dr. Howard Taras, a UCSD pediatrician and professor who is among those advising school districts during the pandemic.

Taras said elementary school students do not have the opportunity to be vaccinated, so they should wear masks. 

As for high school students who do have that opportunity? Taras said he is waiting for the Centers for Disease Control to conduct its scientific review on the topic before making a recommendation.

“Maybe it will be based on community case rates," Taras said. "Maybe it will be based on vaccination rates in that community or vaccination rates in that school, or vaccination rates even in the classroom. I'm not sure, but, certainly, there needs to be a very, very hard look at the science by many infectious disease and epidemiological experts and then we'll look at that and make a better decision.”

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