A Massachusetts parent coalition is urging state leaders not to reinstate widespread COVID-19 restrictions, including mask-wearing, in schools for the upcoming academic year, but said if the protocols are necessary, there needs to be “an explicit and transparent off-ramp for removing these restrictions.”
“With abundantly clear evidence of children’s lower risk from the virus, and highly effective vaccines available to adults, we can no longer implement wide scale, arbitrary measures on children’s educational environments,” Bring Kids Back MA wrote in a press release Friday. “Should any mitigation be implemented at this point, such as masking, it must be based on data on the ground and tied directly to evidence-based metrics.”
All eyes have been on Governor Charlie Baker and other state leaders this week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its guidance on mask-wearing for fully vaccinated people in some parts of the country. One of the agency’s reversed recommendations: All teachers, students, and staff members should wear masks in K-12 schools, regardless of their vaccination status.
Baker has said he’s weighing the new guidance, but has yet to announce any reinstated restrictions in Massachusetts.
Bring Kids Back MA wants Baker to “weigh the physical, mental and academic harm to students caused by a mask mandate” and not mandate any COVID-19 restrictions in schools. But, if restrictions are mandated, “they must be accompanied with transparently and explicitly stated metrics for returning to a normal school environment.”
Melissa Bello, a member of the coalition who helped craft the press release, emphasized in a call Friday that their group is not against mask-wearing but they are against mandates.
“We feel that at this point, parents should have a choice,” she said.
Bello hopes the state will consider metrics focused on hospitalization data, not vaccine numbers. The realistic goal isn’t to eliminate COVID-19 in schools, she said, but to understand whether young people are by-and-large getting seriously ill or hospitalized with the virus.
“The goal posts continue to move, parents are unfortunately losing patience and trust, and the children are suffering,” the group wrote. “Calls for continued mitigation in schools presume a net benefit, despite ample evidence that masking children in school environments is by no means a cure-all, and the downside of three disrupted academic years for children of all ages is not inconsequential.”