Parents in Boston are calling for mask mandates to return in schools amid fears over rising staff and pupil absences.
A group gathered outside Boston Public Schools with signs calling for ‘universal masking after the break’ on Wednesday. Their petition to reinstate face-coverings received nearly 200 signatures.
Suleika Soto — who has two daughters in elementary school — accused the system of ‘leaving the community vulnerable to further sickness and deaths’ by making no plans to bring in masks after the holidays.
They are concerned that increased mixing during the first Christmas in two years will cause a boom in respiratory infections at a time when the US is already grappling with a Covid, flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Officials in Philadelphia announced a 10-day face mask to ‘be proactive’ in stopping the spred of the viruses. Los Angeles, New York City and and Washington state have all began recommending coverings in public places agfain
Protesters gathered at the head quarters of Boston Public Schools to urge them to implement a mask mandate after the school holidays. Shown center is group leader Sulieka Soto, who said the school system was leaving the community at risk of ‘further sickness and death’
But studies have increasingly shown that face masks harmed children’s social development and education.
The protest was organized by Boston Public Schools Families for Covid Safety, which says it advocates for ‘increased Covid safety measures in schools’.
Parents wrapped up against the cold attended the protest, where they quietly stood clutching signs outside the HQ of Boston Public Schools (BPS), which runs 125 schools that teach 54,000 children.
Ms Soto handed nearly 200 letters to officials from parents backing their calls for masks and testing in schools.
Soto said: ‘BPS and the Mayor’s Office continue to claim that they are committed to the health and safety of our students.
‘However, they continue to show that they neglect that data that is shown in studies that are done by some of their advisors.
‘BPS are refusing to implement a masking requirement and testing after the thanksgiving break.
‘They’re leaving our students, families like mine, staff, and overall community vulnerable to further sickness and death.’
Sulieka Soto, shown above clutching a sign, also said at the protest this Wednesday that failing to bring in a mask mandate would continue to perpetuate ‘structural racism’ in healthcare. She is shown with a protester and clutching letters from nearly 200 parents urging the system to implement face mask mandates.
Protesters are shown above holding up a sign calling for universal masking in schools after the Christmas holidays. They protested just before a meeting at the school system
Officials fear that a tripledemic of Covid, flu and RSV could overwhelm pediatric hospitals after the Christmas holidays. Pictured: A protester
She added: ‘The health commission makes it clear that masking and other similar strategies in the school can offset the effects of structural racism in our healthcare system.
‘As school nurses we are committed to the fight against racism, which is one of the main reasons we have passed this resolution.’
Dr Lakshmi Ganapathi, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, also attended the protest urging officials to take action.
Painting a grim picture of the situation in the city’s hospitals, she said: ‘Emergency rooms and pediatric practices are overflowing, this is the reality. We have a shortage in addition of common medications we use as pediatric nurses including antibiotics.
‘Furthermore, frequent illnesses among children and staff is just not conducive for consistent in-person learning.’
The group or around a dozen is demanding a 10-day face mask policy in Boston after the holidays, similar to that to be implemented in Philadelphia.
They are also calling for pool testing for Covid. Pool testing is when swabs from several patients are combined and all tested together for the virus. If any are returned postive, then each swab must be checked individually.
It is unclear whether masks in a school environment actually help combat the spread of viruses.
A Spanish study of over 600,000 children published earlier this year found that on average schools without mask mandates had higher rates of Covid transmission than those that did.
Other studies, including a Stanford University study from April of last year, found that masks had little impact on Covid transmission in schools.
Children are at very low risk from becoming severely ill or dying from Covid, and make up about 0.1 percent of America’s more than a million Covid fatalities.
Surveillance from the CDC published in April found three in four schoolchildren have Covid-fighting antibodies already, shoring up protection against the virus.
About ten adults gathered at the school system’s headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts. Covid and flu cases are rising in the city of 600,000
Sulieka Soto has two daughters attending schools in Boston. She co-founded the organization, which says it is fighting rising Covid cases in the city
Pictured above are protesters urging the school system to bring back Covid testing and mask mandates after the Christmas holidays
CDC calls for people to wear masks over Christmas to stop spread of FLU and RSV
America’s leading health officials are now recommending masking to prevent the spread of RSV and the flu this winter – not just Covid.
Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said during a briefing last week, ‘we also encourage you to wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses’, when discussing prevention measures for the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
It comes as nearly every state in America is recording ‘very high’ levels of flu as the US is slammed by a lockdown-fueled resurgence of respiratory viruses this fall. The CDC reports 9million flu infections and 4,500 deaths caused by the virus this flu season – with the worst expected to arrive in the coming weeks. Typical flu season runs from October to May each year.
Experts have blamed the deadly flu outbreak on lockdowns, mask mandates, social distancing orders during the Covid pandemic, which left the US population ‘immune naïve’ as they were robbed of vital exposure to healthy germs.
Boston city, home to 650,000 people, is currently recording a rise in Covid and a resurgence of flu cases, with the latter putting strain on pediatric wards.
Covid cases jumped 15 percent in the city over the lastest week, from 844 to 969 in the week ending December 14.
About nine people are dying with Covid in the city every day on average.
At the same time flu-like illness hospital admissions are currently at ‘very high’ levels in the city, and data from the state shows they are three times higher than normal at this time of year.
About 5.74 percent of all admissions are for flu at present, compared to the two percent normally seen at this time of year.
There is no local data for RSV available, but national statistics suggest the wave buffeted the US several weeks earlier than normal has peaked.
Last month Massachusetts General for Children, in Boston, warned this virus was creating a ‘capacity disaster’ on their wards.
Amid the resurgence of seasonal viruses and rise in Covid cases, hospital nurses are now saying they are seeing higher absence rates than normal at schools.
BPS said in a statement: ‘Student safety is paramount at Boston Public Schools.
‘We will continue to meet with the Boston Public Health Commission to review the latest BPS data and make informed decisions regarding our Covid protocols.’
The calls come after Philadelphia became the first city in the US to implement a masking mandate for 10 days in January in classrooms.
Last week, Dr Ashwin Vasan, the New York City Health Department commissioner, encouraged New Yorkers to wear face coverings in indoor public places.
Also citing the recent surges in RSV and flu cases, a dozen county-level officials in Washington state also began to urge residents to wear face masks indoors.
Over the weekend, Los Angeles County Health Director Dr Barbara Ferrer announced an indoor mask recommendation over the weekend.
‘If you’re going to an event such as a concert or a large Christmas party, there is now a higher likelihood that one or more persons at the event is infected,’ she said during a news briefing.
‘They could unknowingly infect you, and you in turn could unknowingly infect your friends, your co-workers or your family.’
The CDC has even cranked up its rhetoric on masks in recent weeks, saying it ‘encourages’ people to wear ‘high-quality, well-fitting’ masks to prevent seasonal bugs – not just Covid.