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Statement on Masking and Schools

8/31/2021

As the school year rapidly approaches, we have both a major opportunity and an important obligation: to ensure that children attend school in-person with minimal disruption, while staying healthy and safe. The last 18 months of the pandemic have been hard on everyone, and children’s day-to-day lives have been significantly impacted. We now have a responsibility to put children first and ensure they are being educated to the best of their abilities.

This is why bringing children back to school safely is critical, and why universal masking is an important part of making this effort succeed. To this end, we fully support Governor Kathy Hochul’s recent decision to mandate masks in schools in New York State. Simply put, with the Delta variant’s increased transmissibility, returning to full-time school without this mitigation measure would increase the risk of outbreaks considerably.

Thankfully, masks provide our children, staff, and teachers with a protective measure that is highly effective and safe. A recent study from the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that universal masking provided substantial protection from the spread of infection in a school setting, and another study from Duke University revealed that mask use significantly decreased risk of infection regardless of whether students socially distanced or not.  

We understand that ‘pandemic fatigue’ is setting in, yet the virus continues to evolve and surprise us in ways we couldn’t anticipate. Although vaccination provides us with a powerful tool to suppress the virus, masking is also necessary for children to safely resume school in a setting as normal as possible. Until we get to the point where the virus represents a minimal threat to our families, friends and neighbors, let’s work collectively to protect teachers, staff, and students, while ensuring that children are learning and are thriving both socially and emotionally. Universal masking in schools is a simple step we can take to make this happen.

Patrick Brophy, M.D.
department chair, pediatrics
physician-in-chief
Golisano Children’s Hospital

L.J. Shipley, M.D.
professor of clinical pediatrics
vice chair for population and behavioral health
Golisano Children’s Hospital

Jill Halterman, M.D., M.P.H.
professor of pediatrics
executive vice-chair, Department of Pediatrics
Golisano Children’s Hospital

Brenda Tesini, M.D.
associate hospital epidemiologist 
Department of Pediatrics
Golisano Children’s Hospital

Elizabeth Murray, D.O.
faculty director, child health and safety communications
Department of Pediatrics
Golisano Children’s Hospital