Fauci: Kids should be wearing masks when they're playing with kids from multiple households

Seems ludicrous given how small the risk of infection is, but you know how it goes with Fauci and other public health experts. If there’s any risk, you take precautions. Even, I guess, with a bunch of five-year-olds chasing each other around a playground in the open air.

What sort of risk are we talking about with kids, especially younger kids? Economist Emily Oster recently made the case that they’re no more prone to serious illness than a vaccinated adult is:

The CDC has published some risk assessments by age. For comparison’s sake, I’ll phrase the findings the way I would the results of a vaccine trial: Being a child aged 5 to 17 is 99.9 percent protective against the risk of death and 98 percent protective against hospitalization. For children 0 to 4, these numbers are 99.9 percent (death) and 96 percent (hospitalization).

The central goal of vaccination is preventing serious illness and death. From this standpoint, being a child is a really great vaccine. Your unvaccinated first grader appears to have about as much protection from serious illness as a vaccinated grandmother.

With very rare exceptions, kids with COVID aren’t going to get sick. But that’s not what Fauci’s worried about, right? He’s worried about them becoming vectors of transmission, passing the virus on to older people who might end up in a bad way because of it. What sort of risk does that present?

Enough of one, say doctors Jeremy Faust and Angela Rasmussen, that we’re going to need to vaccinate children at some point if we ever hope to reach herd immunity:

One reason to vaccinate children quickly is that even a small number of critical Covid-19 cases among children is worth vaccinating against. The burden of long-term effects from Covid-19 in children — including rare but serious cases of inflammatory syndrome — remains unclear, especially since many have asymptomatic infections that go undiagnosed.

But the most important and least recognized reason to vaccinate all children quickly is the possibility that the virus will continue to spread and mutate into more dangerous variants, including ones that could harm both children and adults…

Viruses acquire mutations as they spread. The more infections there are, the more chances the coronavirus has to mutate. This increases the likelihood that a more dangerous strain could emerge. Variants that cause more severe illness in children are likely to emerge from children themselves, especially with adults becoming less hospitable hosts for infection as vaccinations rise.

If the goal is to reach herd immunity, and it is, then we probably can’t do it without vaccinating children. They’re 22 percent of the population and we’ll need something like 80-85 percent of Americans to be immunized to reach the herd threshold, according to best estimates. Given Fauci’s penchant for playing head games with the public to try to nudge them towards certain behaviors, my guess is that he won’t budge on masks for kids because he knows that a big push to get kids vaccinated is coming and doesn’t want parents being encouraged to think their little ones are perfectly safe from COVID. Tell them that kids are sufficiently low-risk that they can play without masking and they’ll conclude that kids are sufficiently low-risk that they don’t need to get the jab either. In fact, Faust and Rasmussen admit to being worried about vaccine hesitancy in parents: “A new study — not yet vetted by peer review — found that parents are more reluctant to take the Covid-19 vaccine compared with non-parents and that these sentiments can mirror their intentions to vaccinate their children.”

There is some good news, though. Vaccinations are happening at a brisk enough clip now that even experts are starting to chatter about large gatherings again this summer — provided proper precautions are taken, of course. America did close to 10 million shots, or three percent of the total population, in the last three days alone. Watch Fauci and Ashish Jha contradict Biden’s target for having enough people immunized by July 4 to make backyard barbecues safe. We’re going to be able to do a lot more than that, they say.