PreK Mask Mandate just like NYC - ouch

Does anyone in town think masking toddlers is a good thing right now?   This is frightening stuff.   Really, anyone?   Or just the BOE?  


Here is how to compensate for the damage we are doing to your children.   We know that WHO said children under 5 shouldn't wear masks, but we know better and you will obey.  


April 7, 2022

Dear Preschool Family Community,

As we prepare to begin Spring Break, next week, April 11 - 15, we are sending this communication to keep you abreast of the District’s mask plan for our public PreK sites.

On March 14th, the District moved to a “mask optional” plan in our K-12 schools, buses and District office buildings. In our communication we shared that because the mandates for PreK students differed from the K-12 school setting, we would continue with the “indoor mask mandate” for all of our PreK sites (this includes both the student and staff population).

As per New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) guidelines and in consensus from our local health departments, “if a facility has a population of people that are ineligible for vaccination then masking stays in place as the only other prevention strategy to protect those who are vulnerable.” Most early childhood education (ECE) programs serve children in an age group that is not yet eligible for vaccination. Therefore, NJDOH guidance emphasizes using multiple COVID-19 prevention strategies together to protect children and adults in ECE programs.

The District has decided that we will continue to implement “mandatory indoor masking” for all of our PreK sites. If and when the NJDOH provides a revised recommendation for this age group and/or when vaccinations become available to the age group 4 and under, we will adjust our health and safety protocols accordingly. We also understand that some families may be disappointed by the District’s decision, so we are offering some additional pointers on practices you can adopt in your home to continue to help your child with mask wearing (see the page 2).

See some important reminders below:

  • Outdoor masking is ‘mask optional’; this includes: pick-up and drop-off, recess and outdoor play;
  • Travel quarantine is no longer recommended for unvaccinated individuals;
  • The District is continuing the practice of recommending isolation of COVID positive individuals (home or lab) and those with ‘COVID-compatible’ symptoms waiting for a test result;
  • Virtual learning will continue to be offered to students who are:

a) Unable to attend school in-person due to testing COVID-positive, (or); b) who have COVID-compatible symptoms and are awaiting lab test results (as well as household members of these individuals)

  • Contact tracing will continue for the Public PreK community (for close contacts of an individual with a positive lab test);
  • Continue to report positive COVID home or lab confirmed test results to your bldg. principal/director and school nurse;
  • The DOH recommends that a home test be followed up by a lab test (PCR or Rapid)

Although our "indoor mask guidelines" will remain in place, for future consideration, we believe it is important to add the voice of our PreK family community to this important discussion. Please take a few minutes to complete the “PreK family Indoor Mask Optional” survey, submissions are due by Wednesday, April 13, 2022 - https://bit.ly/3Ja1dhO.

Enjoy Spring Break and we encourage you to continue to remain vigilant over the recess and consider masking when in crowds and socially distancing when possible.

South Orange & Maplewood School District

Parents, caregivers, and teachers can try to compensate for any negative impacts of mask-wearing on language and emotional development with the following strategies:

  • Spend increased time face-to-face at home (or when you can safely remove your mask). Sing songs, play games, and use their favorite toys to try to keep their attention on your face.
  • Use increased language whenever you can. Narrate what you are doing and what your child is doing, play word games, sing, and read books.
  • Use other cues to help children understand your language or emotions when wearing masks, such as using a more animated inflection when you speak, making eye movements that coordinate with your speech, and using gestures and voice inflections to show emotion. Teach your children to do the same. Research shows that adults and children rely on the mouth to decode emotion when the emotion is unclear so exaggerate your emotions whenever you can.
  • Use a loud and clear voice so that children can understand you through a mask. Reduce any distractions or background noise.
  • Practice making different types of faces with children while unmasked. Then move on to playing a modified “peekaboo” with your mask (covering your mouth instead of your eyes) while making different expressions. Your child will then learn other features associated with different emotions.
  • While wearing a mask, play a “guess what kind of face I’m making” or a "guess what I'm saying" game. Tell them to watch your eyes and eyebrows, listen closely to your voice, and pay attention to your hands to guess correctly.
  • Stay positive. Learning how to interpret language and read emotions from masked faces may ultimately enhance your child’s social and emotional development since they may learn to notice more subtle social cues, such as tone of voice and body language.


Just as the Return-to-normal-already-fer-Chrissakes narrative is taking hold, Essex County has seen a doubling of daily cases in less than a week. Union County and statewide as well.

As you may notice, only ages 5 and over are approved for vaccination. So, yeah, toddlers are still at risk and are competent vectors.

But you do you. We know you will.


This is from March 31, 2022. It urges caution and to not take omicron variants lightly.

https://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/health/covid-19-omicron-variant-kids

Wear masks

Adults and children older than 2 can wear masks in public, especially indoors and around other people who are not in their household and particularly in areas where the rate of COVID-19 transmission is high. 

--->The AAP also still recommends that students and staff wear face masks at school and day care regardless of their vaccination status, though many states, school districts and child care centers have dropped mask mandates and made masks optional. <---

If your children will tolerate surgical masks — the best ones are KF94, N95 and KN95 masks — then those offer better protection than simple cloth ones, says John Swartzberg, M.D., clinical professor emeritus in the division of infectious diseases & vaccinology at the University of California Berkeley.

If they won’t, opt for cloth masks that have layers. "The best protection is a surgical mask with a cloth one over it, but that may be hard for many kids to wear for longer periods of time," notes Dr. Swartzberg.


N95s are not approved or sized for children, proper fit is hard to achieve even with adults, and a June 2020 study shows they have very high failure rates when taken on and off or worn for multiple hours. Though KN95s, the manufactured-in-China equivalent, are available in kids’ sizes, they also require a very tight seal to function properly, which is unrealistic for schoolchildren to maintain for multiple hours a day. Early-pandemic recommendations to mask at school, soon followed by mandates, were laid down in the absence of data. We should not repeat this mistake with a new generation of masks.

Imposing on millions of children an intervention that provides little discernible benefit, on the grounds that we have not yet gathered solid evidence of its negative effects, violates the most basic tenet of medicine: First, do no harm. The foundation of medical and public-health interventions should be that they work, not that we have insufficient evidence to say whether they are harmful. Continued mandatory masking of children in schools, especially now that most schoolchildren are eligible for vaccination, fails this test.   Atlantic article 


notupset said:

Does anyone in town think masking toddlers is a good thing right now?   This is frightening stuff.   Really, anyone?   Or just the BOE?  

I think it is the right thing to do.  Children under age 5 do not have a safe-for-them vaccine they can take to protect them.  Town-generated statistics viewable on the health depart section of the Maplewood website show that residents in this age group are being infected by COVID-19.  Masks offer some level of protection from infection.  It is the only form of protection they have.  

ETA: Two - four year olds have been wearing a face covering since they were two years old.  Disposable surgical masks appropriately sized and often in patterns attractive to young children have been available for this population since the beginning of the pandemic.  These children for the most part have become accustomed to wearing face coverings in public.  


That Aaron Carroll article about re-opened schools not being centers for new outbreaks is both published before omicron came upon us (December 2, 2021) and it does not talk about this area in the here and now. Essex and Union Counties are showing an increase in cases.

Those well-meaning doctors are focusing on children but not taking into account the population segments that are more vulnerable. Kids are still competent vectors.

"They may also point to the Omicron surge increasing children’s hospitalizations. 

---> But hospitalizations have risen among all age groups,<--- 

and, even at the country’s peak, remained extremely low among children, on par with pediatric flu hospitalizations during a typical season."

That last sentence about "most children are eligible" leaves out those under 5. 

You know, toddlers.


It isn't our area but places that have been relatively light in terms of COVID problems had a bad March. This is from my hometown paper. Masking is the only way shown to reduce the spread. Children in closed spaces can be a part of the problem.

Syracuse, N.Y. — Covid-19 cases are spiking across Central New York, and Syracuse’s suburbs are seeing some of the biggest increases in the region.

Places like Brewerton, Baldwinsville, Cicero, Minoa, Manlius and Clay are among the 25 places that

---> in March <---

saw the largest Covid surges in all of Central New York, which includes Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga and Oswego counties.


Masks don't bother me (or my kids) much but I do find it quite hard to breathe if I bury my head in the sand.


during the pandemic we've been faced with an array of very bad to less bad alternatives.  Keeping preschool kids at home isn't a good alternative.  Preschool kids passing the virus on to adult teachers or family members isn't a good alternative.  Preschool kids getting sick from COVID isn't a good alternative. Putting preschool kids in masks isn't a good alternative.

but which of those choice is least bad?


The school district is telling us that we need to compensate for the damage being done to the children.    The evidence is that preschoolers are not at material risk.  (If you are going to mask preschoolers during cold and flu season also, that should be parental decision -risks to preschoolers the same)   Parents have the option to have vaccinations.   Parents or others living in the home who are seriously immunocompromised should be taking care of their own risks, not thinking it is ok to impose mandates that need compensation to reverse damage.   There is no science that suggests preschoolers should be masked, that they are in any way effective, however most policy experts in the world suggest we should not be masking these children.  Masking preschoolers is putting your head in the sand regarding science and common sense and caring for the wellbeing of the children 


notupset said:

If you are going to mask preschoolers during cold and flu season also, that should be parental decision

Masks mainly protect those around us.  For someone who spends a lot of time complaining about masks, you don't seem to have a clear understanding of how they work. Masks are a lot like pants.


Even if you believed strongly that the new variants don't effect preschoolers (this would strictly be a matter of faith since the evidence is not in yet), the main people being protected in this situation would be the teachers and the care givers.


notupset said:

The evidence is that preschoolers are not at material risk. 

FWIW: My cousin put her child into daycare at the end of January. Within the first two weeks, the child caught Covid while at the daycare, and spread it to the rest of the family. 

The family had previously caught and recovered from Covid a year earlier. This time, it was significantly worse, taking about a month for recovery.

Just as they were thinking the risk was minimal, it turned out it wasn't.


sprout said:

notupset said:

The evidence is that preschoolers are not at material risk. 

FWIW: My cousin put her child into daycare at the end of January. Within the first two weeks, the child caught Covid while at the daycare, and spread it to the rest of the family. 

The family had previously caught and recovered from Covid a year earlier. This time, it was significantly worse, taking about a month for recovery.

Just as they were thinking the risk was minimal, it turned out it wasn't.

Any exposure to COVID increases the risk of long-term consequences that we're still learning about, even in children. Masks are not perfect. Never have been because, in addition to imperfect fit, there's also a behavioral component to proper use. Are toddlers and pre-schoolers going to be perfect in their use and compliance? No, but that is better than no masks - proven time and time again.


notupset said:

Does anyone in town think masking toddlers is a good thing right now?   This is frightening stuff.   Really, anyone?   Or just the BOE?  

Toddlers aren't in the public school system.


PeterWick said:

Any exposure to COVID increases the risk of long-term consequences that we're still learning about, even in children. Masks are not perfect. Never have been because, in addition to imperfect fit, there's also a behavioral component to proper use. Are toddlers and pre-schoolers going to be perfect in their use and compliance? No, but that is better than no masks - proven time and time again.

Dude - you know what? I don’t know if you have ever spent time around small children, but I am assuming not because you have no clue what you’re talking about. Toddler compliance


algebra2 said:

Dude - you know what? I don’t know if you have ever spent time around small children, but I am assuming not because you have no clue what you’re talking about. Toddler compliance

I too reject any measure for which complete success is not guaranteed.  Better to fail utterly than only succeed 65% of the time, dude.


Straw, does your wife know you're using her account again? 

I'm around plenty of toddlers. That kind of thing happens a lot when you're in an MSW program. I see pretty decent use of masks but I don't have any classroom observations to report on. That's why I said they won't be perfect. However, even partial use is going to give their siblings, parents, grandparents, other family members, and friends a better chance of you know, not getting infected with COVID.

I repeatedly catch myself wondering about your reading comprehension.


algebra2 said:

Dude - you know what? I don’t know if you have ever spent time around small children, but I am assuming not because you have no clue what you’re talking about. Toddler compliance

Straw/Algebra. Not citing this post in particular, but what is your problem with Peter? Just let it go please. Clearly you disagree, but there is a way to make your points without being such an ****.


Sorry Peter - you give bad medical advice and you misrepresent your credentials. My whole family agrees. 

Algebra2

PeterWick said:

Straw, does your wife know you're using her account again? 

I'm around plenty of toddlers. That kind of thing happens a lot when you're in an MSW program. I see pretty decent use of masks but I don't have any classroom observations to report on. That's why I said they won't be perfect. However, even partial use is going to give their siblings, parents, grandparents, other family members, and friends a better chance of you know, not getting infected with COVID.

I repeatedly catch myself wondering about your reading comprehension.


If you could use that Google website you'd know you're wrong on both counts.


algebra2 said:

Sorry Peter - you give bad medical advice and you misrepresent your credentials. My whole family agrees. 

Take my downvote.

question


Who remembers when notupset was upset because he had COVID and then bragged about getting a monoclonal antibody treatment?


algebra2 said:

My whole family agrees. 

What a very odd thing to say. Are there more family members who are happy about being clone-bots of Straw?


yahooyahoo said:

Toddlers aren't in the public school system.

3 and 4 year olds are in the school system.  Preschool classes are held at Montrose School and various other sites under contract with the school district.


sprout said:

FWIW: My cousin put her child into daycare at the end of January. Within the first two weeks, the child caught Covid while at the daycare, and spread it to the rest of the family. 

The family had previously caught and recovered from Covid a year earlier. This time, it was significantly worse, taking about a month for recovery.

Just as they were thinking the risk was minimal, it turned out it wasn't.

DId the preschooler get very sick?  If not, it is evidence that preschoolers are not at material risk


GoSlugs said:

Masks mainly protect those around us.  For someone who spends a lot of time complaining about masks, you don't seem to have a clear understanding of how they work. Masks are a lot like pants.

So you are suggesting we all should wear masks during cold and flu season also, so as not to infect others?  You may recall we all used to go around without masks because life is better that way and not freak out about people not wearing masks even during cold and flu season.  You are suggesting it should not be an individual or parent choice?


Since we know that vaccination offers limited if any protection against spreading or getting Covid, the idea that only the unvaxxed preschoolers should be required to wear masks, the least at risk, the least likely to wear them properly, is extra ignorant non-science


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