Masks at school will keep more children safer from infection, doctor says

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Starting Tuesday, all students in Shelby County will return to school masked up.

This comes after a Shelby County judge issued a temporary restraining order against Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order, which allows parents to opt their children out of mask requirements.

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With children now making up 38 percent of active cases in the entire county, Dr. Sandy Arnold with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital said it’s more important than ever masks are worn in the classroom.

“I think it is really important that people have confidence when they send their children to school that they are not going to be exposed to someone walking around who has COVID-19 and who is not masking,” she said. “Having them wear masks at school will definitely keep more children safer from infection.”

Dr. Arnold said the temporary ban against mask opt-outs could make a positive impact on case numbers.

“I think if all kids in school wear masks properly all the time, it would definitely have an impact on cases,” she said.

Currently, Shelby County is reporting over 3,400 active pediatric cases.

Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Steve Threlkeld said the more precautions schools take against the more transmissible Delta variant, the better.

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“Distancing kids as much as you can practically do so, have the best airflow and ventilation in the rooms, doing things outside when it’s safe, and masking particularly when they are in close quarters,” he said.

However, children aren’t the only ones responsible for the spread. Dr. Arnold said most kids are getting the virus at home.

“Adults need to behave as well,” she said. “We should all be extremely careful, trying to avoid places where we are in public with a lot of people we don’t know, and we should be wearing masks everywhere trying to avoid becoming infected.”

With the surge in pediatric cases, Dr. Arnold expects to see an increase in MIS-C cases soon, which is an inflammatory condition seen in children associated with COVID.