Unmasking the Truth

Outdoor portrait of a blond woman wearing a medical mask. Life with COVID-19 restrictions

The CDC is recommending masks for teachers and students this year, vaccinated or not. Their recommendations are not mandatory. Should we follow them? Let’s look at the data, and unmask the truth.

January saw the introduction of vaccines, and with them, a greatly reduced Covid-19 case, hospitalization, and death rate. In May, the CDC said it was safe for those who were vaccinated to unmask. Then suddenly, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, who as late as July 9th said that, “Covid-19 vaccines worked against variants, and that it was safe to unmask indoors if you’d been vaccinated,” changed course. On July 27th, without providing any supporting data, the CDC recommended the vaccinated wear masks indoors to protect the unvaccinated, and that all teachers and students wear masks in schools.

CDC recommendations are not mandatory. The Anne Arundel County School Board chose not to follow CDC guidelines on social distancing on buses and during lunch this spring. Here’s why we shouldn’t follow CDC masking recommendations in school this year:

Vaccines are available and they work. If you choose not to get vaccinated, that’s a personal health choice, and I respect it; but you must be prepared to accept the consequences. If you’ve been vaccinated, you have a greater chance of dying from a lightning strike( 0.0007%),  or the seasonal flu ( 0.1%), than a Covid-19 variant (0.0005%). The vaccinated, and those with immunity through a previous infection, don’t need to wear a mask to protect other vaccinated people or themselves, because even if they get a breakthrough infection, their odds of dying are close to zero. That’s the unmasked truth.

The same is true for unvaccinated school children. Of the over 600,000 Americans who’ve died with a Covid-19 diagnosis code in their record, only 335 have been children under the age of 18. We don’t know how many of those 335 children had pre-existing conditions; the CDC failed to track this. However, Dr. Marty Makry of the Johns Hopkins Institute of Public Health analyzed the health insurance data of 48,000 children under the age of 18 diagnosed with Covid-19 and found a mortality rate of zero for those without pre-existing conditions such as leukemia. One thing is certain, children are at extremely low risk from Covid-19. Twice as many children die in car accidents annually than have died of Covid-19, and we don’t ban kids from cars. There’s no reason to require them to wear masks. That’s the unmasked truth.

Parents, not the board of education, should be able to choose whether or not their children wear a mask in class. Teachers should be able to make their own decisions as well. Teachers and children who have preexisting medical conditions should have accommodations available to them in a non-traditional classroom setting if they request them, in accordance with current policy.

Some suggest we need masking for everyone to keep Covid-19 from mutating into a more dangerous variant that can defeat vaccines. Mutation’s a legitimate concern, but masking won’t prevent it. Even if every American was vaccinated and wore a mask, the virus could mutate in another country and spread here. There will always be Covid variants, just as there are flu variants. Right now, our vaccines are just as effective at preventing hospitalization and death from the Delta variant as other forms of Covid-19. That’s the unmasked truth.

Over 99% of Covid-19 deaths occur in unvaccinated people. CDC and local government policy reversals, like requiring masks for the vaccinated, undermine efforts to persuade those who aren’t vaccinated to get vaccinated. CDC data indicates that among those who are vaccinated, Covid-19 has been transformed from a mortal threat to something a little more dangerous than the common cold.  It’s time for parents, not the school board, to make decisions like whether or not a child should wear a mask, and it’s time for our kids to get back to normal. That’s the unmasked truth.

Herb McMillan served three terms in the Maryland House of Delegates and is a Republican candidate for Anne Arundel County Executive. He may be contacted at www.herbmcmillan.com

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