KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Sending children back to school unmasked is a “recipe for disaster,” according to one Children’s Mercy doctor.
Dr. Angela Myers, division director of infectious diseases, told reporters on Tuesday that the COVID-19 delta variant is spreading “unchecked in our community right now,” while there’s a likelihood students will return to the classroom without masks.
“What I can say is that wearing a mask prevents the spread of disease and it’s even more important than being distanced, which is why the CDC wrote their guidance the way they did,” Myers said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 transmission prevention guidance states students should maintain at least 3 feet of distance indoors and students who aren’t fully vaccinated should wear masks.
“When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, such as when schools cannot fully reopen while maintaining these distances, it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as indoor masking,” the guidance states.
The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment released its recommendation last week that students who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 wear masks.
The risk of contracting COVID-19 is higher now than a few months ago, according to Myers, due to the more transmissible delta variant.
“We keep making a virus because of the transmission. Because we’re allowing it to circulate, because we’re allowing it to grow and divide, it’s continuing to get more and more contagious,” she said.
When students were masked in classroom settings last year, Myers said there was “little to no transmission,” even when social distancing couldn’t be maintained.
While some school districts are conducting proactive COVID-19 testing, which the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend, Myers suggested that parents also screen for symptoms.
As of Tuesday morning, 11 children were being treated for COVID-19 at the hospital, Myers said. Some have underlying conditions, while others are “healthy, normal” children, she said.
“It’s certainly an increase in the last couple of weeks,” Myers said. “It’s not where we were at the height at kind of the end of December, early January, but we’re seeing the wrong direction happening here. We are on the way up, not the way down.”