Why should my kid mask up? Because COVID-19 has infected 4 million+ children, experts say
Along with the normal stress of back to school, the continuing COVID-19 pandemic is causing additional angst for parents and students this summer.
Here are 10 topical questions with answers from government and medical authorities.
Q. Of the school-age population, who can get vaccinated against COVID-19?
A. The federal government has approved Pfizer Inc./BioNTech's two-dose COVID-19 shot for ages 12 through 17. Children age 11 and younger are not eligible for vaccines yet.
Q. What are federal policies to protect students?
A. In schools, "mask use is recommended for people who are not fully vaccinated, including students, teachers, and staff," U.S. Centers for Disease Control experts said.
The CDC strongly urges those 12 and older to get vaccinated.
Q. What are state policies?
A. Illinois has adopted the CDC guidelines. "Vaccination is currently the best way to protect yourself and prevent the spread of the virus before it mutates even further," Illinois Department of Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said.
In addition, "masks should be worn indoors by all individuals (2 years and older) who are not fully vaccinated. This includes in schools, many of which serve children younger than 12 years who currently are not eligible for vaccination," she said.
Q. What do doctors recommend?
A. The Itasca-based American Academy of Pediatrics, which numbers about 67,000 members, advocates universal masking in schools to protect unvaccinated individuals.
Q. Does the Pfizer vaccine work?
A. "Both vaccines (made by Pfizer and Moderna Inc.) are most effective two weeks after the second dose, with each exceeding 90 percent effectiveness against severe disease, hospitalization, and death in real-world studies," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has said.
Q. My child is tired of wearing masks. Why should he/she wear one?
A. "Masks remain a simple but powerful tool to protect against COVID-19, especially for children too young to get the vaccine yet," AAP officials said. Also, children who contract COVID-19 can be asymptomatic and spread it to family members and fellow students.
Q. Why should kids wear masks when they don't get really sick from COVID-19?
A. Children typically have milder symptoms of the virus and are less likely to become seriously ill or hospitalized, academy doctors said.
But they are not immune -- more than 4 million children have tested positive for COVID-19, 16,756 were hospitalized and 346 have died in the U.S.
Q. I read on social media masks can harm children. Is that true?
A. Masks are safe and do not block oxygen, interfere with lung development, or trap carbon dioxide among other myths, AAP reported.
"I am not aware of any reports of any child or adult getting sick from wearing their own mask," said Dr. Michael Bauer, director of Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital and a pediatrician.
He added, "I don't know anyone who likes wearing a mask, but in the vast majority, it's a bigger deal for parents than it is for a child."
Q. What is happening with the COVID-19 delta variant?
A. The highly infectious strain "now represents 83% of sequenced cases in the U.S.," Walensky said this week. "That's a dramatic increase up from 50% the week of July 3."