American Academy of Pediatrics: Kids should keep masking, including two-year-olds

AP Photo/John Minchillo

Insanity. By the time the pandemic completely sputters out, a Twitter pal notes, the group that will have been masking and social-distancing the longest is … children. A demographic that’s famously at low risk for serious infection but at high risk for developmental setbacks due to interrupted social interactions, especially at school.

In updated face mask guidance, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the continued use of a well-fitting face mask for children and teens who are age 2 years and older and not yet fully vaccinated…

“The COVID-19 vaccines are remarkably effective, but we must stay vigilant,” said AAP President Lee Savio Beers, MD, FAAP. “Children under age 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine, so it’s smart to be cautious and careful, especially when they are playing with friends, accompanying their parents to the grocery store, attending school or camp, and in any other situation in which they are around groups of people, some of whom may not be fully vaccinated.”

What on earth are they thinking?

Last week Children’s Hospital Colorado declared a “state of emergency” over children’s mental health after 14 months of grinding pandemic restrictions. The facility’s chief medical officer got emotional while discussing it with reporters, saying, “Our kids have run out of resilience. Their tank is empty.” Europe isn’t seeing huge spread in schools even though most kids there, especially younger kids, aren’t masked. And the UK, which has been extremely cautious this year in maintaining restrictions, recently announced that kids under 12 would no longer need to mask up at school.

In the U.S., according to a Brown University economist’s latest data, students are experiencing just nine confirmed cases of COVID per 100,000 people. That’s the lowest rate since last August. And since many teachers and staff are now vaccinated, which wasn’t the case at the start of the school year, we should expect that rate to continue to fall. If adults are no longer bringing the virus into the classroom, that’s one less vector that can possibly infect kids.

Three doctors published an op-ed a few days ago gauging the risk to kids from infection. Bottom line: Not high.

Overall, the risk to children is too low to justify the remaining restrictions they face. Somewhere between 0.1 and 1.9 percent of covid-19 infections in children result in hospitalizations — and that’s likely an overestimate given that recent studies suggest approximately 40 percent of pediatric covid-19 admissions were misclassified. The risk of a child developing MIS-C, a serious inflammatory condition with effective treatments, is less than 1 in 1,000. The virus has claimed the lives of nearly 400 children in 17 months, lower than the estimated deaths among children in recent influenza seasons…

This low risk for children nearly vanishes as cases plummet. As we saw in Israel and Britain, vaccinating adults indirectly protects children. The same trend is evident here in the United States: Adult vaccination has lowered covid-19 incidence among children by 50 percent in the past four weeks. On average, fewer than 0.01 percent of Americans are currently infected, and the chance of an asymptomatic person transmitting to a close contact is about 0.7 percent. That yields a scant 0.00007 percent chance that any close contact will transmit infection to a child. If the contact is outdoors, the risk appears to be more than 1,000 times lower.

That last point can’t be stressed enough. The logic of herd immunity is that, as a greater share of the population is immunized, both the vaccinated *and* remaining unvaccinated are better protected from infection. The vaccinated have immunity by dint of their inoculation but the unvaccinated are less likely to be exposed to the virus because vaccinated people don’t transmit it easily. Whereas last spring SARS-CoV-2 could leap quickly from one vulnerable person to another, in a country where more than half of adults enjoy immunity of some kind, most of the roads it’s hoping to “travel” on are now closed.

I can’t understand why Biden, Walensky, and Fauci aren’t emphasizing that point more to tempt holdouts into getting vaccinated. Lotteries are fine, but there are few appeals more potent in American culture than “do it for the children.” That’s exactly why low-risk adults like twentysomethings should get the jab: Kids aren’t eligible yet to be vaccinated but we grown-ups can collectively protect them by immunizing ourselves, cutting off our ability to infect others.

“Get vaccinated and your children don’t need to wear masks” would be a solid pitch. Which is not to say that it would succeed universally, as there are a lot of hypercautious Democrats out there.

Remember, younger kids’ risk of serious illness from COVID is about on par with their risk from flu, and yet plenty of parents are fine with seemingly indefinite masking in schools. Which makes me wonder if liberals’ intense new sensitivity to the threat from infectious disease is going to lead to schools imposing mask mandates on children during flu season from now on, even if the threat from coronavirus has abated. And even though flu vaccines are widely available in the fall.

That is, instead of kids being liberated from mask-wearing, it may become a semi-permanent feature of school life for them during winter months. Which would be tolerable if masking weren’t affecting their mental health and social growth, but as it is, the trade-off seems unconscionable.

I’ll leave you with Scott Gottlieb making the case that masks on children outdoors, at least, are unnecessary. Someone should tell the CDC, which still wants kindergarteners masking up at camp in the summer heat.