KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As the delta variant of COVID-19 has caused several school districts and municipalities in Kansas and Missouri to reinstate mask mandates, University of Kansas Health System Chief Medical Officer Dr. Steven Stites answered questions about their efficacy on Friday.
Stites responded to ideas that wearing a mask all day may be harmful to children, as school districts prepare to go back in person this year.
“That is a falsehood looking for a home," he said.
Surgeons wear masks for full 24 hour periods, or longer, he said, and never change out the mask unless it tears or gets wet. Stites said the idea that wearing a mask for a full day of school is bad for student health is not true.
“Those types of opinions aren’t supported by the research at this point," Stites said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its mask guidance in July to say that even vaccinated people should wear a mask indoors.
Stites said he agrees with that, partly because of vaccination rates in the area.
Herd immunity has been estimated at around 80 to 85% of the population, meaning about that percentage of a community would need to be vaccinated in order to keep everyone safe.
The Kansas City area has not hit that mark, and even if it did, the delta variant has caused the target to move in ways scientists have not fully pinned down yet, Stites commented. That increases the need for both higher vaccination rates and masking.
Overall, Stites had one message about masks.
“Masking is simple, it’s safe and it works," he said.