The debate over California’s requirements for students and staff to mask up inside school is being bolstered by one of the nation's top pediatric groups, and parents in San Diego County are reacting.
The American Academy of Pediatrics announced Monday it supports universal masking because so much of the student population isn't yet eligible for vaccination.
Despite their scientific knowledge, some parents still aren’t completely sold on the benefits of children wearing masks.
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“I just think it’s lame. I feel he should be free,” Chelsea Matthews said about her son Isaiah.
Isaiah was one of the many children enjoying their best mask-free life at Maruta Gardner Playground near Mission Beach. But with some schools in San Diego County starting this week, these mask-free days will soon be a thing of the past.
California will require K-12 students and staff to wear masks inside school buildings, whether they're vaccinated or not. And though the mandate's getting pushback that could include a lawsuit, the AAP provided state health officials some reinforcement in the form of new guidance.
The leading national pediatrics group is recommending everyone older than 2 years old wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status, to make school safe for everyone.
Fifth-grader Emmett Robin isn’t a fan of masks and says they’re hard to breathe in, but he understands the guidance.
“You shouldn’t have to wear it at all outside. But it makes sense inside because of all the germs are trapped in there, especially with dirty, stinky kids," he said.
The AAP says research consistently shows opening schools in person doesn't generally increase community COVID transmission when masks and other protocols are employed. They also noted the emergence of more contagious variants, some of which are linked to more severe outcomes and pose a particular threat to people who aren't vaccinated.
“A good way to protect our kids is us as adults get vaccinated,” explained pediatrician Dr. Victor Velasco. “If we send our kids to school, let's have them wear a mask."
The mask requirement comes at a time when COVID-19 cases, fueled by the Delta variant, are on the rise across California, including in San Diego. While state guidance may allow people with certain medical conditions to wear less-restrictive masks, Sharona O’Connell is concerned about her daughter with autism.
“I feel it's kind of cruel to people with autism and special needs. I don’t think it’s a good idea. I think kids statistically are highly unaffected by this virus, so let the kids breathe," she said.
Seven-year-old Grace Bullock and her dad survived being infected by COVID-19. She said it helped teach her a valuable lesson about community.
"I’m going to wear a mask so nobody gets sick, or me," explained Grace.
The superintendents from Poway, Alpine and Carlsbad school districts have teamed up to write a letter to state officials urging them to adhere to CDC guidelines, which state masks aren't needed in schools for students who are fully vaccinated. A national organization called Let Them Breathe has also threatened to sue the state over its mask mandate.