'We have the science behind us': Why Warrenville mom urges mask-wearing in schools

Editor's note: For a different viewpoint on the issue from another parent, please read the companion piece to this story.

Jessica Banaszek won't sit on the sidelines of the debate over masks in schools.

She organized a protest against the decision in Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 to make mask-wearing optional for the new school year. She's mobilized other parents to write letters to government and health authorities. And she's used her voice as a medical professional to stamp out misinformation.

“We have the science behind us,” Banaszek said.

She's encouraged by DuPage County Health Department guidance that “strongly recommends” school districts require anyone who's not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to wear masks indoors.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that unvaccinated people ages 2 and older should wear a mask indoors in public. But the American Academy of Pediatrics is urging school districts to require universal masking, regardless of vaccination status.

“The CDC needs to revise its back-to-school parameters, and the states should follow,” said Banaszek, a surgical technologist.

She's calling for school mask requirements to protect unvaccinated children and because of the highly contagious delta variant. Vaccines have not been approved for children under 12.

“Kids are generally not affected by the severe symptoms of COVID, but they still can get sick ... and they can spread it to family members,” Banaszek said, pointing to a summer camp outbreak in central Illinois.

She also worries that optional mask policies will result in classroom quarantines and more disruptions for students.

“We didn't have a lot of spreading in the schools because everybody was wearing masks,” she said.

Her two teenage children are fully vaccinated, and both will wear masks in District 200.

“Honestly, the delta variant was really a deciding factor,” Banaszek said. “We're not out of this, and yes my kids, are vaccinated, and they technically have a lot of good protection on them, but it's not infallible, and I want to protect other people.”

Freedom of choice: An Arlington Heights mom's mission to make masks optional

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