Students should not have to wear masks to school. For most adults, masks in public indoor settings cause only minor inconveniences, but children, who experience serious outcomes from COVID-19 at far lower rates, have different needs and vulnerabilities.

Childhood is a crucial time when humans develop cultural, language, and social skills, including the ability to identify emotion on other’s faces, which masks prevent.

Social interactions with friends, parents, and other loved ones are also crucial to promoting children’s growth and well-being, which is also being prevented. Along with this, cloth masks do filter some aerosols, but not all, so viral particles are still able to be exhaled and spread.

And, although results from a trial in Bangladesh found that widespread use of surgical masks demands a significant reduction in the spread of symptomatic COVID-19, there is no mandate on what masks must be worn, varying the reliability of their effectiveness altogether.

Further, shielding children, especially young children, from all exposure of coronavirus is difficult. And any health recommendation that takes little account of how humans act and what they need is unlikely to be successful.

Not only are mask mandates challenging for children to follow, but it also deprives them of stimuli they need and can result in shortness of breath if they exert themselves.

So, the real question is: do the benefits of masking kids in school really outweigh the downsides? I believe not.

Tristan Pelletier, Bethel

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