KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City physicians sent a letter to school districts, urging them to require universal masking in school for at least the fall semester, especially for kids under 12 who can't get the COVID-19 vaccine yet.
"It's both to protect those students who would get sick and students who would end up with potentially multiple quarantines in the fall, since we're seeing a lot more cases in town," Dr. Amy Knapitsch, a pediatrician and mother of three, said.
About 100 doctors, who are also parents in Kansas City school districts, signed this letter. They say not masking will likely spread illnesses even more and worry it could create learning disruptions that schools may not be prepared for.
"We have a very different variant than what we were dealing with last year. It is much more contagious, we know that," Dr. Kathleen Eubanks-Meng, a Lee's Summit family medicine physician and mother of a Blue Springs School District student, said. "And even if that little paper mask that has some snot on it gives them an extra layer of protection, we need to do something."
These doctors say they've seen COVID-19 and other viral infections cases dramatically increase since May and June.
"We've seen plenty of children hospitalized and a number of pediatric deaths. Yes, the numbers are small but it's not really a risk I'd want to take with my kids and I don't want anyone to be in that position either," Knapitsch said.
Their letter agrees with the latest recommendations from theAmerican Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC, and the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment - which all strongly encourage in-person learning with masks.
Doctors say universal masking means a reduction in not just COVID, but other illnesses with nearly identical symptoms.
"And that's what we're going to be dealing with this winter - our regular bugs in addition to increase in COVID and it's going to be an inconvenience for parents, schools, everybody," Dr. Allison Hettinger said, a pediatrician in Olathe who has three kids in the Blue Valley school district.
Their overall message:
"Talk to your physician, get your information from a trusted source, consider getting your child vaccinated or immunized if you can and just remember that we need to take care of each other," Hettinger said.
The letter in full is below:
To: Kansas City Area School Boards and Administrators
From: Kansas City Area Physicians
RE: School COVID Mitigation Fall 2021
Dear Superintendents, School Board Members, and Administrators,
We the undersigned are physicians (MD, DO) who practice within or reside within the Kansas City Metropolitan region. We comprise a wide range of clinical practice and specialties.
We agree with the newest guidelines published by experts at the CDC (July 9, 2021), AAP (July 18, 2021), and The Johnson County Department of Health (July 16,2021).
We urge schools to follow science and the experts and to enact the following procedures and policies, at a minimum:
1. Prioritize in-person learning.
2. Mandatory Universal Masking for all grades in which students are not yet eligible for vaccination. (Grades preschool - Grade 6)
3. Strongly encourage masking in unvaccinated students in grades where students are eligible for vaccination. (Grades 7 -12)
4. Strong contact tracing including following health department guidance for isolation and quarantine.
We all agree that our students need to be in schools and that they need to be safe. Enacting these policies will give schools the best opportunity to do both while minimizing potential instructional interruptions due to illness, contact isolations, and quarantine.
Melissa AH Gener, MD - Pediatric Pathology/Neuropathology, BV parent of 4
Johanna Peterson, MD - Internal Medicine
Namita Gupta, MD - Endocrinology
Angela Prato, MD - Family Medicine
Allison Hettinger, MD - Pediatrics
Shailja Parikh, MD - Cardiology
Kristin Streiler MD. - Pediatrics
Lei Pei, MD,PhD - Internal Medicine
Chaitali Mahajan,MD - Neonatology
Amy Knapitsch, MD - Pediatrics
Catherine Watts, MD - Pediatrics
Megan Thomas, MD - Maternal Fetal Medicine
Christi Bartlett MD - Internal Medicine, Hospice and Palliative Medicine
Aileen Har, MD - Pediatrics
Tricia Fairchild, MD - Family Medicine
Neha Patel MD - Allergy/Immunology
Kristen Stuppy, MD - Pediatrics
Lindsay Baldridge, DO - Pediatric Endocrinology, Kansas City
Alexandria Felton-Church, MD- Pediatrics
Anne Wishna, MD - Ophthalmology - Leawood, KS
Kathleen Eubanks-Meng, DO - Family Medicine
Sheena Gleason, MD - Hospitalist/Internal Medicine. Kansas City, MO
Sobia Khan, MD - Pediatrics
Neeti Alapati, MD - Ophthalmology, Overland Park, KS
Tara Grimaldi MD - Pediatrics
Sarah Dubin, MD - Pulm/Critical Care (BV mom)
Molly Uhlenhake - Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, KCMO
Emily Hillman, MD - Emergency Medicine
Abbey Oshel, DO - Family Medicine
Michelle Boyce, MD - Ophthalmology, Kansas City, MO
Stella Zhang, DO - Family Medicine
Grace S. Mitchell, MD/MBA - Pediatric Radiology
Johanna Finkle, MD - OB/GYN, parent of 3 in blue valley district
Allison Cargnel, MD - Pathology
Geetha Kamath, MD - Internal Medicine, KC
Stepheny Berry, MD, FACS Acute - Care Surgery/Surgical Critical Care, Leawood KS
Jenifer Butler MD - Pediatrics
Jessica Newman, DO - Infectious Diseases
Megha Chandramohan, MD - Pediatrics
Colleen N Johnson, MD - Otolaryngology, Kansas City, KS
Fatima Khan, DO FACP FACOI Lawrence, Kansas
Lisa Hays, MD FACE - Endocrine and Internal Medicine
Stephanie Karnik, MD - Pediatrics
Dharshinie Jayamaha, MD - Pediatrics and Pediatric Emergency Medicine
Marci Allen, DO - Hematology & Oncology
Jennifer Mellick, MD - Pediatrics
Leslie Favier, MD, MSc - Pediatric Rheumatology
Sheila Owens, MD - Family Medicine
Jane Schwabe, MD, MBA, St. Joseph MO
Laura Parisi, MD - OB/GYN, BVN grad (2003)
Kirsten Reilly MD - Pediatrics, KCMO
Michael Reilly MD - Emergency Medicine, Olathe, KS
Laura Thomas, MD - Pulmonary/Critical Care
Joseph Donald, MD - Radiology
David Finkle, MD - Emergency Medicine, KS
Juhi Kangas, MD - Pediatrics
Jamie Reasoner, DO - Pediatric Hospitalist
Kate Robben, DO - Pediatrics
Aniesa Slack, MD - Family Medicine, live in KCK, work in KCMO
Yomi Asojo, MD - Pathology
Alison Blevins, MD - OBGYN, Olathe, KS
Jon Dubin, MD - Ortho Trauma
Julie Brown,MD - Pediatrics
Steph Swords, DO - Med/Peds
Christian A. Hettinger, MD - Urology
Kimberly Schoofs, MD - Dermatology
Nguyen Tran, MD - Allergy/Immunology
Joan Schieber, MD - Obstetrics & Gynecology
Kristin Bosiljevac, M.D. Family Medicine
Megan Loeb, MD - Pediatrician, Leawood, KS
Mickelle Hirschman DO, - Hospitalist,
Phaedra Dowell, MD - Neurology
Kathryn Hedges MD - Neurology
Nancy Hammond, MD - Neurology
Benjamin Reine, DO - Family Medicine
Natasha Burgert, MD, FAAP - Pediatrics
Kulnarin Gay Purcell, MD - Internal Medicine
Gillian Housman, DO - Family Medicine
Dylan Werth, MD - Family Medicine
Cynthia Costa, MD - Neurology
Doug Cochran, MD
Kelly Alford,MD - Nephrology, Kansas and Missouri
Sandra Archer, MD - Family Medicine
Emily Robb, MD - Internal Medicine, SMSD parent
Kallie M Foss, MD - Community Pediatrician, Olathe, KS
Stephanie Baker, DO - Family Medicine
Susan Ratliff , MD, FAAP - Pediatrics
Amy Voelker, MD
Brennen Bittel, DO - Neurology, Leawood, KS
Lynn Fullenkamp, MD - Pediatric Hospitalist
Ashley Tatum, DO - Internal Medicine
Catherine Harris, MD - Hospitalist
Michilia Harrington, MD - Family Medicine, Overland Park, KS
Rachel Holt, MD - Family Medicine
Christine Lilly, DO - Family Medicine
Sarah Boyd, MD - Infectious Disease
Mary Champion, MD - Ophthalmology
Kristi Kinder, DO - Pediatric Emergency Medicine
Amelia Sorensen, MD - Orthopedic Surgery
Kavitha Rao, MD - Infectious Disease