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Health leaders encourage masks in schools even if they are not required

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Published: Jul. 19, 2021 at 7:10 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 19, 2021 at 7:14 AM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The Alabama Department of Education is leaving it up to each individual school district on whether or not to require masks for students this coming school year.

Pediatric Infectious Disease Experts with Children’s of Alabama said they are seeing kids as young as four become hospitalized with COVID-19 and they believe it is because of the Delta variant, which could spread even more when school starts.

“I think that is a consideration that each family is going to have to make when it comes to their child,” Jefferson County Health Department Infectious disease expert Dr. Wesley Willeford said.

Many schools across the state are enforcing an “optional mask policy” for this upcoming school year, but health officials said even if the school isn’t requiring it, parents should.

“Especially with the highly contagious Delta variant,” Willeford said. “We may start to see more cases in young people, especially in people who can’t be vaccinated, and especially if masks aren’t utilized.”

The CDC’s latest school recommendations call for masks on those who are unvaccinated and Dr. Willeford said face coverings are crucial for children under the age of 11.

“The safest thing right now is for people who are not vaccinated and who can not be vaccinated, would be to wear a mask while you’re indoors, particularly with a lot of other people.”

Pediatric Infectious disease expert Dr. David Kimberlin said the Delta variant spreads 60% more effectively than the other strains.

“Masks and social distance and so forth,” Kimberlin said. “The things that we know work. We likely are going to be relying more and more on as the virus is picking up steam across our communities.”

Dr. Willeford said we don’t yet know how impactful the Delta variant is on younger generations, but hospitalizations are increasing in every age group.

“We want to see schools run completely successfully,” Willeford said. “Have kids back in the classroom and doing what they need to do, but I think we are all going to have to work together to make that a real and sustainable possibility.”

Willeford said another way to protect kids who can’t be vaccinated yet from the virus is making sure everyone of age in the home is vaccinated. He said this will help prevent other family members from bringing the virus home and infecting the younger kids.

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