Thursday, April 21, 2022

The kids in masks are alright, politicians not so much

In a couple of days time, Ontario's mask mandate comes to an end after the best part of two years. Although at least half of the population say they will probably still wear masks in public places regardless, it will still be a time of celebration for some (probably a minority) and a source of stress and anxiety for others.

Doug Ford says it is time for the mask mandate to end: "we have to move forward from this".  Because ... well, he doesn't really explain why exactly. Because it is time. Because many of his more conservative supporters don't like masks for some reason ("freedom"?), and there is a provincial election coming up soon. Because some other provinces are also easing their mask mandates, and he doesn't want to be seen to be left behind. Because our schoolkids are suffering untold mental anguish and psychological trauma. 

Wait. Just a moment. Is that true? 

It has been an article of faith among many of the more vocal child advocates and political commentators for months now (years, in fact) that our children are being irreparably damaged by the wearing of masks. But research (in the USA, in Canada, and elsewhere) actually concludes that masks have caused no appreciable damage to kids, no adverse physical, psychological or developmental consequences. There is "no clear evidence that masking impairs emotional or language development in children" (US CDC). "Right now, there are no data to suggest that there are any short-term or long-term harms when it comes to masks and kids, and that includes both psychological harms and physical harms" (Mass General Hospital for Children). They didn't even adversely impact children's ability to read their friends' emotions (Queen's University).

Mr. Ford, and his sidekick/lackey Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, are suggesting, nay insisting, that the mask mandates, in schools and elsewhere be lifted on March 21st, the day after all those kids finish March Break, despite many of them having spent the last week on foreign beaches and ski hills, and hanging out together in malls and movie theatres, many of them still unvaccinated. Prudence suggests at least a two-week delay, but Ford is having nothing of that prudence thing.

This is not on the advice of the Ontario Science Table (the body that is supposed to advise Messrs. Ford and Moore), nor on the advice of hospital and other medical authorities, nor on the advice of school boards (many of which have been lobbying to extend the mask mandate, and which have been told, in no uncertain terms, that they can't). This is not "following the science". This is, like so much else that Doug Ford does, a purely political calculation. 

And, as for the argument that the kids are suffering, well, that won't wash either, as we have seen. Masks are what have been allowing kids to attend school in person for all these months, and that DOES have serious implications for their mental health. In short, the kids are alright; it's some of the adults I worry about.

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