SAN DIEGO – The San Diego-based mask choice advocacy group Let Them Breathe is pushing back on recommendations issued Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which call for face coverings to be worn by everyone ages 2 and up inside schools.
The new guidance comes because “a significant portion” of the student population is not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccines and it would also be difficult for schools to track the vaccination status when they have different rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated students.
“Universal masking is the best and most effective strategy to create consistent messages, expectations, enforcement, and compliance without the added burden of needing to monitor vaccination status,” AAP said.
But Sharon McKeeman, who founded Let Them Breathe, argues instead that children need to “get back to normal regardless of their vaccination status.”
“We know they’re at low risk and the adults and those who are high-risk have had that opportunity to be vaccinated,” McKeeman said.
The latest recommendation creates more buzz around an already complex issue. The AAP recommendation falls in line with what the California Department of Public Health has recommended, but it differs from recent guidance by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which allows those who are vaccinated to not wear a mask if they choose.
Dr. Kaveh Bahmanpour with Sharp Community Medical Group said Monday that from a scientific standpoint, it “seems to be reasonable to send our kids to school with masks and we can protect them.”
“There’s no way around it,” Bahmanpour said. “Pfizer suggested there will be a vaccine in winter, if FDA approves it, which would vaccinate five to 11-year-olds.”
Any such mask requirement is unwelcome news for Let Them Breathe, however. The group is planning to rally at several school districts this week, including in Carlsbad and Vista prior to school board meetings and in Poway despite no scheduled meeting.
Let Them Breathe also says it’s is the process of filing a lawsuit fighting against the mask mandates.
“There’s parents that are frustrated because their kids got vaccinated just so they wouldn’t have to wear a mask,” McKeeman said, “and now the AAP is saying no everyone has to keep a mask on and then we also have parents that are not planning for their kid to get the COVID vaccine at all.”