Lowcountry doctors weigh in on debate over masks in S.C. schools

This school year will undoubtedly be an unusual one for kids.
This school year will undoubtedly be an unusual one for kids.(Storyblocks)
Published: May. 5, 2021 at 7:38 PM EDT
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BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - According to the Centers for Disease Control, there have now been more than 32 million cases of COVID-19 nationwide. The weekly number of nationwide cases is trending downwards.

Last week there were more than 319,000 new cases reported nationwide for all ages. Data from the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that COVID cases in children represent 22 percent of weekly new cases nationwide.

As mask mandates are expiring across the Lowcountry, many people are making the decision for themselves whether or not they will continue to wear a mask. But in schools, students are still asked to mask up inside. Now, doctors are looking at data and giving their opinion on whether or not children should be expected to wear masks when they return to school in the fall.

Since students returned to the classroom last fall they’ve been expected to wear a mask every single day, all day, except for a few mask breaks outside. Now doctors are wondering — should that still be the case next fall?

Students of all ages are expected to wear a mask during school. But with the new year just around the corner, doctors are giving their opinion on masks in school.

“No. No to the point of the extreme that’s been taken,” said pediatrician Joseph Floyd.

An infection preventionist at Hilton Head Regional Healthcare says it may be too soon to tell.

“I think we should just really sick, stay tight, be patient and just wait to see what the CDC recommends for the fall,” said Carlye Gilbert.

The two opinions come as the American Academy of Pediatrics published data showing 22 percent of new cases last week were in children. Gilbert says there’s a reason for that number.

“They are not the vaccinated population. So as the vaccines become more readily available and the FDA clears children to receive the vaccine at lower ages, it’s an opportunity to protect them as well,” he said.

The pediatrician believes as long as current trends continue, children should be given the option to wear their mask or not next fall.

“Normal things, washing their hands, keeping a distance, not being in each other’s face, that’s great. In fact we should all be doing that. Wearing a mask all day long? Especially a mask that supposed to be disposable and having children wear them all day long? No that’s not the right thing to do,” said Floyd.

The infection preventionist says the district and parents should follow CDC guidelines this fall and watch local data.

“We need to continue to do our due diligence and make sure that we are protecting ourselves so we are protecting our children,” said Gilbert.

The district says they don’t know exactly what their plan is for next semester yet but they say they will continue to work on it and let parents know as soon as possible

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