According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (A.A.P.), all students should wear cloth masks at U.S. schools. Their recommendation is more than most provincial rules in Canada and is harsher than the guidance of one of Canada’s top children’s hospitals. A.A.P. stated that while reopening schools in September, the government should make cloth face masks mandatory for all students older than two and all adult staff in America.
On the other hand, experts with Toronto’s SickKids Hospital in Canada have advised that high school students in Ontario be compelled to wear non-medical masks at school. However, they stated that elementary school students should not be expected to follow the same guidelines. They indicated if younger students touch their masks frequently or remove and replace their masks without proper hand hygiene, they could be at increased risk of contracting COVID-19.
They added that because children’s social development depends on interactions that include facial expressions, it was “impractical” for most elementary school students to wear a mask all day.
According to Dr. David Fisman, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Toronto, the U.S. guidance “makes more sense.” He stated that the A.A.P.’s recommendations are consistent with how SickKids runs its own hospital. Fisman added, “masks may make things worse stuff is baffling to me and sounds made up. It suggests the SickKids authors don’t understand the rationale for masking in indoor settings, which is to prevent the aerosol generation, not to protect the wearers.” Dr.Abdu Sharkawy, an infectious disease specialist, agrees that all school-aged children should wear masks. Abdu added that whether that’s a daycare or a school environment, any children that are over the age of two in any communal setting should be wearing masks.
Current federal health guidelines say that schools should consider non-medical mask policies based on a variety of circumstances. This includes the local epidemiology of COVID-19, and it’s expected that masking policies would vary across the country. Several Canadian provinces, including Newfoundland, Saskatchewan, and P.E.I., do not require cloth masks in schools. In the class for students from Grade 4 to Grade 12, Ontario and Alberta need mandatory masks. On the other hand, in Quebec, masks are compulsory in common areas for students in Grade 5 and up.
On Wednesday, Manitoba reversed a decision made last week that didn’t include mandatory masks by announcing that it would make masks mandatory for Grades 4 to 12. For students in middle school and high school in situations where physical distancing is not possible, British Columbia has made masks mandatory. This week, the Toronto District School Board decided that students from kindergarten to Grade 12 will be required to wear masks at school where physical distancing cannot be maintained. However, Ontario Premier Doug Ford doubted the board’s decision.
On Wednesday, Ford indicated that he goes with the experts at SickKids. He stated that they are the ones who didn’t recommend masks, and children would be fiddling around with the masks. He added that they would support the board if that were what they wanted to do, and keeping a cover on a junior or senior kindergartener might be difficult. The new U.S. guidelines correlate with SickKids’ guidelines. The U.S. and Canada are heading into September in two very different situations, even as the masking recommendations may be different.