By: Jeanelle Murphy, DO
As Covid-19 continues to thrive due to the delta variant it is more important than ever to protect our children who are not yet eligible for the Covid vaccine. The delta variant has proven to be more contagious than the prior strain of SARS-COV-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19) and it seems to affect children at a greater rate and severity than the prior strain. The estimated fatality rate of Covid 19 in the US is between 1.6-3% making it much more deadly than the flu which has an estimated fatality rate of 0.1%. It is also crucial that we do all we can to prevent the spread of this deadly virus to those who are at greatest risk of severe infection and death: those who are unvaccinated, as well as those with weakened immune systems.
The most important tool we have to end this pandemic is vaccination however masking and social distancing are also essential tools.
Cloth masks consisting of three layers of fabric prevent 50-70% of infectious particles from spreading from an infected person to those around them. Masks also protect the wearer of the mask from Covid Infection by up to 70%. Studies have shown that up to 50% of infectious people do not have symptoms though they are capable of spreading Covid-19 to others, this includes vaccinated people who are less likely to have symptoms of Covid -19 and if they have symptoms they are more likely to be mild. Children are less likely to show symptoms than adults making it even more important for them to be masked to protect their classmates, teachers and other school contacts.
Research has shown that it is safe for children 2 years and older to wear cloth masks for an extended period of time. Oxygen and carbon dioxide freely exchange through cloth masks since these molecules are much smaller than Covid virus particles. School age children 7 years and up have shown to be accurate at interpreting emotions of others with partially covered faces making the social emotional concerns less of a concern. Clear masks are available if necessary for teachers of younger children and children can have plenty of mask free time outside and away from school with family. Children are resilient and can certainly adapt to wearing masks as has been shown in Asian countries where masks have been the norm for years.
Hopefully, if we all do our part with vaccination, masking and social distancing the pandemic will end in the near future and we can all live without the fear of Covid-19 for our children and our families.