KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Doctors at Children's Mercy Hospital are responding to the claims made in Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt's lawsuit filed Tuesday.
The lawsuit argues school districts should not be able to require masks in schools.
Columbia Public Schools, as well as the Board of Education and the superintendent, are among those specifically named in the suit, but a spokesperson for the AG's office said the lawsuit will apply to all districts in Missouri that currently require masks.
A news release said the lawsuit is brought on three counts, which include mask mandates being unreasonable, that the boards of education do not have the authority to mandate masks and that masks are "unlawful" to require of school children.
The lawsuit also argues science shows children are less likely to contract a serious illness due to COVID-19 and children make up a very small percentage of hospitalizations in Missouri.
To this claim, doctors say they are seeing an increase in children hospitalized due to COVID-19 at Children's Mercy hospital.
Dr. Jennifer Watts, chief emergency management medical officer, said as of Tuesday, there are 16 children at Children's Mercy Hospital with COVID-19. Five of them are in an intensive care unit.
"This is the longest stretch we've had with this many children in the hospital," Watts said.
"We were at our highest back in the Fall, in November I believe, we were around 13 in-house, and we're between 15 and 20 right now routinely," Watts said.
Watts said the hospital is also seeing children with other respiratory viruses, such as RSV, which the hospital typically does not see cases of this time of year, according to Dr. Angela Myers, division director of infectious diseases.
"We see it in the Winter and early Spring months and then it peeters out usually in March or April," Myers said. "It's really unusual to see it this time of year."
Myers said there could be several reasons why the hospital is seeing cases of RSV.
"One is because people in the community stopped wearing masks as COVID cases went down and began being together more in crowds and groups, which allowed for the spread of respiratory virus infections in addition to COVID-19," Myers said.
Myers said in addition to that, the hospital did not see RSV cases since March 2020 until Summer 2021.
"So we have a huge cohort of very young children who really hadn't been exposed since birth so they have no immunity to RSV," Myers said.
The lawsuit claims masks fail to provide adequate protection and "offer a false sense of security."
It also says "mask use by the general population shows, at best, a marginal impact on the spread of COVID-19. And most studies show no distinguishable difference between places with mask mandates and those without them."
"We have tons of data from schools, I don't know how much more data we need to say that masks work, that rock has been looked under, we know that the data is there, we know that masks work, let's put it back down and let's move on," Myers said.
It also cites studies that show masks are harmful to young kids' development and communication skills.
"There's really good data that that's not the case, we've got lots of experts in the field of speech and speech therapy and all other kind of medical fields around that, growth and development, developmental behavioral pediatrics that say that's not the case," Myers said.