Experts highlight importance of masks in schools; Gov. Reynolds says she’ll sue to stop any vaccine mandates


In the next issue of Pediatrics, a journal published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, medical experts from Children’s National Hospital in Washington D.C., the George Washington University and Johns Hopkins University write that attempts by the states, including Iowa, to ban the use of masks in schools undermines public health efforts to contain COVID-19 and puts students at unnecessary risk of contracting the disease.

“The results of a recent analysis indicated that increases in pediatric COVID-19 case rates during the start of the 2021–22 school year were smaller in U.S. counties with school mask requirements than in those without,” the authors write in the peer-reviewed article that was made available online this week ahead of its publication. “A study of K-12 schools with high masking compliance had lower incidence of COVID-19 infections among students and staff when compared with the county overall. Notably, student masking compliance did not vary with age, suggesting that students of all ages are able to comply with masking requirements.”

The authors recommend pediatricians and public health experts “actively debunk myths and misinformation about masking” and provide advice on “behavioral strategies to support children’s compliance with masking based on individual abilities and needs.”

The Reynolds administration is currently appealing a federal judge’s temporary restraining order stopping it from enforcing the ban on school mask mandates.

“We will never stop fighting for the rights of parents to decide what is best for their children and to uphold state laws enacted by our elected legislators,” Reynolds said in a written statement, when she announced the appeal. “We will defend the rights and liberties afforded to all American citizens protected by our constitution.”

The governor has also threatened to sue the federal government to stop any mandate related to COVID-19 vaccinations. Reynolds repeated her intention to sue during a news conference on Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, the Iowa Department of Public Health released its latest weekly update on COVID-19 in the state. According to IDPH, 61.5 percent of Iowans aged 12 or older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, a slight increase from last week’s total of 61.2 percent. Among Iowans of all ages, 52.2 percent are fully vaccinated; last week it was 51.9 percent.

For the third consecutive week, the number of new COVID-19 cases in IDPH’s weekly update declined, with 6,907 new cases of the virus being confirmed over the latest seven-day period. Once again, children were the age demographic accounting for the highest percentage of new cases. Twenty-two percent of newly confirmed cases were among Iowans younger than 18, the same percentage as in the previous IDPH update. It was the seventh update in a row, in which the youngest category in IDPH’s demographic breakdown had the highest percentage of new cases.

Hospitalizations declined from 598 in the previous update to 557. The number of Iowans hospitalized with COVID-19 has been above 500 in every IDPH update since Sept. 8.

In its update on Wednesday, IDPH reported another 100 deaths from COVID-19. According to the department, 6,848 Iowans have died from the virus.

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