Outrage as US elementary school renews mask mandate

Parents of one third-grade class where a few students caught Covid-19 were told that all the children would have to wear N-95 masks for 10 days.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A Maryland principal sparked outrage after sending out a letter Tuesday to parents of one third-grade class instructing them to have their children wear KN-95 masks for ten days after a few children came down with the newest variant of Covid-19.

Rosemary Hills Elementary School head Rebecca Irwin Kennedy informed them that the rule, effective for school staff as well, was being enforced because “3 or more individuals have tested positive for Covid-19 in the last 10 days.” At-home rapid tests would be sent to their homes as well, she wrote, and parents should be on the lookout for symptoms that she listed, all in an effort to “ensure staff and students remain healthy for in-person learning.”

Mask-wearing would return to being optional after the ten-day period was over, she added.

Founder of the Outkick sports news website, Clay Travis, went viral after posting the letter to X (formerly Twitter) and saying, “They’re coming with masks for your kids again. Get ready. Read this insanity.”

In a matter of hours, 3.2 million people had viewed his post. One of those who retweeted the news was Donald Trump Jr., the son of former U.S. president Donald Trump, who posted simply, “DO NOT COMPLY!!!”

Media reports have noted unnamed experts saying that while there has been a recent surge in Covid cases due to new mutations of the virus, it is not nearly enough to warrant such a move. While the last two weeks have been the first to see a week-on-week rise in hospitalizations due to Covid since December, according to the American government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of admitted patients stands at 8,000 in comparison to 44,000 per week even earlier this year.

At the height of the pandemic, there were 150,000 hospital admissions in the U.S. each week.

As she mentioned in the letter, Kennedy’s instructions followed CDC guidelines. The CDC currently recommends that besides testing themselves and monitoring for symptoms, people who have been exposed to someone with Covid-19 should wear “a high-quality mask when indoors around others (including inside your home) for 10 days.”

In addition, those who test positive for SARS-CoV-2 should isolate at home for at least five days, starting from when symptoms appear.

The KN-95 mask is thicker and has been touted by the CDC as being more of a protection against droplets of infectious viruses in the air than a simple surgical mask or one made of cloth.

The mask mandate was highly controversial even during the height of the pandemic, in 2020-2021, with many arguing that it did not prevent the spread of the deadly virus. Dr. Anthony Fauci, who was the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases from 1984 to 2022 and was the leading government voice about what to do during the pandemic, had at first said that masks were not necessary, and then did an about-face on the issue.

Adding fuel to the current backlash is a much-publicized quote from a Cochrane review of pandemic-era health care policy and research released last month that seemed to indicate that Fauci’s original stance – against mask mandates – was the correct one.

“Wearing masks in the community probably makes little or no difference to the outcome of laboratory-confirmed influenza/SARS-CoV-2 compared to not wearing masks,” the review concluded after examining the results of multiple studies.

However, after many media and politicians jumped to say that it proved that masks don’t work, Fauci dismissed the study and Cochrane itself clarified that the meta-analysis authors had also said that the results of their study were inconclusive. Reasons for doubt included “the high risk of bias in the trials,” and “relatively low adherence with the interventions during the studies,” meaning that there was nowhere near 100% compliance in wearing masks in the testing groups.