New York State just updated its rules to indicate that, based on new CDC guidance, kids in daycare and summer camp programs, for whom there was previously an exception to masking, now have to wear masks at these programs, and older children in such programs (and staff) need to either show proof of vaccination or wear a mask. It is understandably frustrating on the surface, that there would seem to be this reversal of position, but let's talk about the reasoning. The guidelines can be found here.
I’ll start with this: I (not a parent, as I discussed in my last post) had assumed that kids are daycare had been wearing masks for months before this. I did not realize there was an exception in the CDC guidance for summer camps and daycares, and I did not realize that so many local institutions had taken advantage of that. I have seen plenty of kids in this and other states who have been masking for months (at least in pictures) and so I had generalized that.
In my honest opinion, that exception should not have been in place. There needs to be some flexibility for sure and there are some children where masking presents more of a challenge than in general, but especially at peak pandemic, any kid older than age 2 should have been wearing a mask, if at all possible. The kids that have done so seem to have adapted well.
People bring up concerns about speech development and behavior patterns, but it's important to note that since most families don't wear masks at home, that should not be underestimated in terms of ample opportunity for learning. Further, I can point to examples of children with conditions like cystic fibrosis who have had to frequently mask for years before the pandemic and still thrive (those kids are also a big reason to keep masking).
This is part of the frustration of the bombshell drop of the CDC's new guidelines. Yes, the science does indicate that vaccinations reduce spread of COVID-19, but we're not even at 50% vaccination in the US yet. Vaccinations are widely available in some areas but not so in others (especially those more populated with Black and other People of Color, and it is particularly difficult in states that have been more profoundly affected by the disease due to population density and inability to take advantage of outdoor weather for so much of the pandemic, like New York). 60% of the US population is still vulnerable to this virus, including children under 12 who cannot yet be vaccinated and their parents and grandparents, to whom they can spread it. It would have been nice for the CDC and subsequently the state governments to have eased this into place, maybe given advanced noticed and relaxed mitigation measures at a higher threshold of percent-vaccinated, OR given businesses and daycares guidance on how to approach this...but here we are.
Now that more and more people will be going without masks (and to be quite frank, some of those people will not be vaccinated because businesses will be reluctant to ask for the safety of their employees, and there are those who will take advantage of that, if behavior before vaccination was any indication), children and adults not yet vaccinated will be even more exposed and vulnerable. So it honestly makes sense for kids to mask up at daycare and camp, since they'll be in close quarters (part of the new guidance also removes the 15-person limit at such programs) while still going home to these adults.
I have watched parents around me and their children for the past year. Again, in my opinion the daycares should have been doing this way back then, but the kids that have been wearing masks the whole time have gotten used to them, even at the youngest ages. Just like for adults, it took some getting used to (including mask adjustment), but then it just became part of the routine of getting ready and going out into the world. Teaching and leading with these restrictions IS hard, and my teacher friends have struggled, but that has been doable so far, too.
A quick summation of the science/logic behind masking at daycare:
1. People are getting vaccinated, but not enough yet. That WILL change with time and more vaccinations, but we just are not there yet, especially now that summer camps and other programs are kicking into gear.
2. Young children are getting affected more by the newer variants (which are here in NY).
3. Even young children who are not symptomatic can carry it to the adults in their lives who can be affected more profoundly.
4. The mRNA vaccine companies have enrolled children ages 6 months to 11 years in their ongoing trials now, the next step in determining the safety and efficacy of vaccines in the last remaining not-yet-eligible age group of the US population.
5. In the meantime, as you have probably already been doing, we must set the example and teach our children to wash their hands frequently/use hand sanitizer appropriately, and that will help until they get used to wearing a mask.
Spread of disease in kids more related to exposures outside of school, but still can happen within (especially if other mitigation measures are relaxed): https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2775875
Masks do not affect respiratory function in kids: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2776928
Masking+distancing DOES reduce transmission in schools: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/03/210319125531.htm
A round-up of mask myths and brief general advice on how to get kids to wear masks:
An excellent guide with more tips on how to help kids wear masks:
And, while they frustrate me, the CDC: