Calling bullsh*t on mask theatre would save lives

- In this Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021 file photo, Students wearing protective masks walk past a "Welcome Back" sign before the first day of school at Sessums Elementary School in Riverview, Fla. Students are required to wear the masks at school unless their parents opt out. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)

From Day 1 of COVID, I’ve focused on saving lives and protecting others. I don’t say this to toot my own horn; I say this because now, after a year and a half of supporting masks, flattening the curve, getting and promoting vaccinations, and pulling out masks again, there are people who are saying I want to kill kids. Some people believe that parents, teachers, and even elected officials who are discussing facts, peer-reviewed studies, and quoting doctors and researchers whose conclusions are contrary to the CDC and AAP are all conspiratorial COVID deniers.

This is a stupid and harmful lie.

Let me speak plainly for those confused: COVID is real. Vaccinations help protect against getting/spreading the virus and lessen the chances of death/hospitalization for someone who does get it. When worn properly by adults and older children (teens), Masks help the spread by limiting the percentage of respiratory droplets someone infected spreads. There is some value though it’s not as high for those wearing a mask if exposed to someone else.

Seniors, preemies, people of all ages with underlying conditions such as obesity, heart or lung conditions, diabetes, or other immune system are at the greatest risk from COVID complications or death.

Now back to the point at hand: Mask theatre is stupid and undermines the credibility of physicians and other medical experts who promote and support it.

What qualifies as mask theatre you may well let me give you some examples:

Masking as you walk to your table at a restaurant, only to get there, take it off and talk and eat for hours.

Masking when walking or biking alone outdoors.

Masking when in your car alone (extra points if the windows are down and double points if you’re a smoker masking between cigarettes).

Masking in a home without someone sick or at high risk (extra points if you mask while watching t.v. then sleep next to someone unmasked).

Masking when socially distancing outdoors under any circumstances that doesn’t involve an at-risk person.

Worse than masking theatre is the fact that these guidelines or recommendations are harmful to those who want to take rational precautions.

Starting today, my 2-year-old is being forced to mask. My other son has been masked since turning 3 and will start his kindergarten year in a mask, and my daughter went through second and is starting third in a mask. What’s worse? The health experts advising their school are requiring them to mask outdoors.

I went to a kindergarten ‘meet the students’ playdate on a playground where children swinging, climbing, and sliding in 90 degree heat were forced to wear masks. I had to leave early because my son was overheated 20 minutes in. It took all I had not to shout at the adults in charge. Adults who I generally respect in a school I treasure.

Children should be able to trust us as parents.
Parents should be able to trust school officials.
We all should be able to trust the medical community.

WHO says masking under 5 is not recommended. When Governor Kay Ivey instituted a mask mandate, she and Dr. Scott Harris started it at 5. CDC and AAP have always said 2, but why? They’ve never once said why two. Not a single study supports the idea of toddlers being responsible for community spread.

CDC reports that as of 08/07/2021 165 children in the nation under 14 have died of COVID.

So tell me then why 2-5 year olds all over the state are being masked? Let me tell you. “Follow the science” has been lost to “following the guidance” and a system of peer pressure where doctors and parents alike have confided in me that they are scared to speak up to their peers or school administrators. Fear that is grounded in a world where those of us opposed to masking children are being accused of being selfish, reckless or even as bad as segregationist.

So our toddlers and young children pay the price wearing masks except when they snack, eat lunch, nap/rest, snack again.

What is gained in terms of protection that isn’t lost when they are in downtime? Nothing. It’s illogical, inhuman, and unscientific to think there will be no talking (or breathing) during these breaks or nap times.

Masking any children outdoors is also ridiculous.

Every life is precious but, and yes, I too can hardly believe I’m adding a “but” here, but we should not upturn healthy young children’s lives for a virus that, for the overwhelming majority, will be mild and not as deadly as the flu.

Wait, did I just deny the deadly nature of COVID? No. I didn’t. Reread my statement. I want experts to follow the science.

Beyond COVID, the costs of masking are high. The social and emotional costs of teaching our children to live in fear, having them miss years of developmental speech skills, the general risk to the immune system (hello, summer RSV), and childhood are high too high to be silent about.

So what’s the right age to mask? Now that’s a topic I’d like to hear the data parsed out on. Not “just because they can talk, they can catch/spread COVID.” Actual, risk/costs and don’t tell me comfort and convenience are the only costs with a straight face. Most spread is happening within families and at home. I’m still waiting for one piece of evidence of swing set spread.

Families need to consider their children, loved ones, and individual risk and make informed decisions. That choice shouldn’t be made for everyone by “experts” who refuse to acknowledge data, statistics, and risk factors. Protecting and keeping my children safe is my number one priority, but we can’t keep them alive at the cost of not letting them live.

This is an opinion piece by Apryl Marie Fogel. Fogel is the editor and publisher of Alabama Today. She is the host of Straight Talk with Apryl Marie on News Talk 93.1 Radio on air 12pm-3pm central.