Unmasking Science drives COVID-19 response as schools reopen

Despite the evidence, back-to-school means back to masks for some kids this year, and parents and educators still don’t have evidence that mask policies keep students or teachers safe.

Rather, the experience of the past two years has taught us that teacher unions and other education interest groups, not science, are driving the school response to COVID-19.

This means that political power is more concerned than the health and achievement of students.

The primary concern of parents, teachers and politicians today should be student learning.

Commentators and analysts on both sides of the ideological divide have called the extended school closures “disastrous,” “disastrous” and “severe,” among other epithets.

Research has revealed significant learning losses among K-12 students over the past two years, with greater academic setbacks for children who were forced out of the classroom for longer periods than those who returned. -early to personal training.

Some suggest that the learning loss will be greater for those students who were already behind before the pandemic, a prediction that should surprise no one. Learning losses do not point directly to mandates in disguise, but these requirements are part of a range of policies that divert attention from student success.

Still, school officials in Jefferson County, Kentucky, the state’s largest school district, along with educators in Philadelphia are among those continuing to wear masks to start the school year. Other school administrators in Fairfax County, Virginia and some school districts in California either started the year with a mask mandate or are considering a mandate now.

As of Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had classified more than a third of U.S. counties as high-transmission areas, including some of the nation’s largest school districts, such as Miami.

CDC continues to recommend school mask mandates in these counties. However, Americans have reason to doubt the scientific basis of these decisions.

The policy became inseparable from the school health policy. In March, congressional Republicans released a report confirming what many had long suspected: teacher unions colluded with the White House and CDC officials to write federal guidelines that kept schools closed despite evidence showing that children are most little affected by the virus.

Agency officials recently vowed to reform the CDC, saying what all Americans have understood by now: the agency “lost its focus” and had “numerous failures” during the pandemic.

For these reasons, along with the lack of reliable evidence for certain pandemic responses, the CDC has damaged its credibility in school mask mandates. School officials are far less likely to accept the agency’s recommendations today than they were last fall.

This is good for parents, who will have more freedom to make their own decisions about their children’s well-being.

Many school officials rightly make decisions on their own. According to Burbio, a data service that compiles school and community data, only 1.8 percent of the 500 largest school districts it tracks have such mandates. Last fall, nearly three-quarters of those districts required students to wear masks.

School districts across the US are ignoring CDC guidelines for school masking. Part of this is due to lower levels of public anxiety about COVID-19. But it also has to do with the agency’s failure to create a solid foundation for its recommendations.

Consider: A widely cited study published last September in the CDC’s flagship journal, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, found that “masking requirements at school [were] associated with lower daily cases of pediatric COVID-19.”

But a preprint accepted for publication by The Lancet, a prestigious British medical journal, replicated and extended the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report’s research methodology and reached the opposite conclusion.

The authors of the Lancet study looked at schools in the 565 counties included in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report study. They found that while schools that required masks had lower cases of pediatric COVID-19 after three weeks, that difference disappeared after six weeks.

Expanding the sample to 1,832 counties, they found no difference in pediatric case rates between schools with mask mandates and those without.

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly declined to publish the study, even though it used the same methods as the study published by the journal last September.

Americans should remember that if school officials do not require masks, teachers and students can still choose to wear face coverings. But government officials lack research evidence to require everyone to wear masks.

However, educators have enough research to prioritize student success. So far this has been one of the sad casualties of the pandemic, but we can still fix it if we put children before politics.

This piece originally appeared on The Daily Signal

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