Letters to the Editor: Readers voice support for mandating masks in BV schools

Dear fellow citizens, neighbors, friends, parents of Brandon Valley Schools/ staff and children,

Thanks to Jill for her report on last week’s meeting and the discussion of whether masks will be required.

It appears that all commentary focused on folks’ general opinions on whether masks should be required wearing of school pupils and staff. I did not see any numbers, however, numbers that would suggest the level of risk of contagion in our schools. Such information is necessary, in my opinion, in decisions as critical as this. Numbers are perhaps an inconvenient study, or perhaps not trusted, but they are the accounting guidelines for assessing our risk factors. Since none were mentioned, here are our most prominent:

U.S. cases since beginning of the year 2020 … (today, 7-20-2020) … 3,773,260 … as percentage of population 330,000,000 = 1.14 percent … that’s 1.14 cases per 100 people … as a snap-shot in time, static as in non-circulating.

South Dakota cases are at just under 7700, in a population of 885,000, puts our state at .9 percent ...  close to national rate.

Minnehaha county has 3,854 cases so far (just under half of South Dakota) with population of 195,000 (approximately) =  1.9 percent ... round it up to 2 percent for simplicity’s sake, for a very clear picture of the stage in our schools’ burdens of safety. That’s one case out of two classrooms, in a static setting. 

Shall we ask an engineer for the variables to apply when the bell rings, and the halls are active with circulating kids and staff? Should we call this a “stir the pot” moment? This is when things become “exponential”, as they say.

I admire the courage of our school staff, as I believe in their awareness of the threat. I think we owe them more support, and I mean far more than thoughts and prayers. Tools are the key, backup equipment on the ready. Testing, supervision, medical staff. If these concerns have been met, it would be some comfort knowing what they are, as they weren’t discussed in the report.  

Thanks all, for your concerns, and your considerations of others in our fight against this risk.

Phil Mast

Corson

***

As a physician I’d like to let you all know a couple things about masks in schools to help you figure out if you want to send your child to school with a mask. There is a lot of misinformation out there and so it’s easy to get confused.

First of all if your child does NOT wear a mask and a child or teacher in their class tests positive for COVID, your child will be quarantined at home for 14 days. If your child IS wearing a mask AND the child/teacher is wearing a mask then that is considered a low risk exposure and your child will NOT have to quarantine for 14 days. How much PTO do you have if this happens? Who is your backup for care? If it’s grandma – will you really want to use her when she may be at high risk?

Masks are effective. It’s true that the COVID virus can pass through most masks BUT the COVID virus does not travel alone (it dries out quickly) – it travels on large respiratory droplets, which are caught in the mask. Face shields are almost as good as masks and might be better for younger kids as they are see-through and so they can see mouths to help with language.

Masks are safe. (Think about it – if the virus can pass through the mask then oxygen and carbon dioxide, which are 100 times SMALLER – can definitely pass through the mask). It does NOT decrease oxygen or increase CO2 levels. If you have seen people online talking about extra oxygen being pumped into operating rooms and that is why surgeons can wear masks that is totally ridiculous. Oxygen is a flammable gas and

we use electrocautery in the operating room. We would literally blow up the hospital if that were true!

Masks are cheaper than seeing the doctor. Your kids might need to be cleared by your healthcare provider to come back to school. How much are your copays? You can get a mask for cheaper than a coffee at Starbucks (five for $12 at Old Navy, for example, tons of options with cool designs and characters online).

Social and emotional well-being: There aren’t any studies about how this time will impact our kids. We haven’t had a pandemic in 100 years. But you set the tone. If you normalize the mask, they will too. We don’t know the long-term effects of this virus. More and more cases show that some have long-term organ damage, maybe even infertility. As an OBGYN, we are also starting to see data linking COVID to stillbirths.

The most important thing for your children’s wellbeing is for them to be in school. Masks will help keep transmission low and schools open. I think attending a teacher’s funeral or giving their grandparents COVID and then going to their funerals will be more traumatic than wearing masks to school.

Masks show that you care about your fellow classmates and teachers. Isn’t that what school is all about? Teaching our kids to be good and productive citizens? What message are you sending your child?

I’m going to post some resources in the comments about ways to help your kids get used to masks and how to properly use them and clean them.

Amy Kelley

Sioux Falls

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