Get Rid of the Mask Requirement


David Gitelman '22

I do not believe that Ramaz students should be required to wear face masks to school this year. The major political polarization around the issue of masking children in schools is making it hard to have a calm conversation about the data and science. However, I believe that based on the evidence it is unnecessary to mandate masking in Ramaz this year considering the special circumstances of our school. We find ourselves in a highly vaccinated area with declining Delta rates and a completely vaccinated student body. I would absolutely be willing to change my opinion if a more deadly variant begins to proliferate or if revelatory new scientific evidence comes to light, but as it stands currently, I do not think we should have a mask mandate. Any student or teacher who wants to wear a mask should absolutely be free to do so, but owing to the specific circumstances of Ramaz, it doesn’t appear logical to put a blanket mask mandate in effect. 

 There are many scientific reasons we should not be required to mask this year. Children rarely suffer serious illness from COVID-19. The majority of children do not develop symptoms when infected with the virus, or they develop a very mild form of the disease. According to the CDC, the mortality risk from COVID-19 for kids is lower than that from the flu.  

 This conclusion is also true for the much-worried-over Delta variant. Sunitha Kaiser, a pediatric hospitalist at the University of California, says that “it doesn’t appear to cause more severe disease in children.”  

 Vaccinated teachers also should not worry. Despite increasing alarm over the Delta variant, according to the CDC, as of August 23, 2021 there have been 8,987 Americans hospitalized and 2,063 dead with breakthrough infections out of 171 million people who have been vaccinated. Your likelihood of dying of COVID after having been vaccinated is .001%. Your likelihood of getting ill to the point of hospitalization is only .005. To put those stats in perspective, someone who is vaccinated is seven times more likely to be killed by getting struck by lightning than to die of COVID; you are more likely to be killed by a hornet or wasp sting, a dog attack, a car crash, drowning, sunstroke, or choking on food than you do of dying from COVID-19.  

 Others may worry about the ramifications of “long COVID” even for children who may not die or even become seriously ill from the virus. While concerns about long COVID in kids are real, the mounting data is reassuring. One large U.K. survey showed that the risk of long COVID in children was much smaller than in adults. According to a Lancet study published Aug. 3, “Children who do develop Covid symptoms are at minimal risk of long Covid… Almost all children had symptom resolution by 8 weeks, providing reassurance about long-term outcomes.” Eight weeks may be a long time, but it is not long enough to merit huge concern.  

 Many believe that despite the fact that children are overwhelmingly safe from COVID, they should wear masks regardless to protect their teachers and prevent spread to other unvaccinated people outside the school. However, Martin Kulldorff, a biostatistician and professor of medicine at Harvard, is against masking children in schools. “They don’t need it for their own protection, and they don’t need it for protecting other people either,” he says. According to the European Center of Disease Prevention and Control, school outbreaks have not been a prominent feature in the COVID-19 pandemic.  

  I understand that many health experts and scientists disagree with my position. However, it is important to note that public policymakers are dealing with a different set of circumstances in many schools than those faced by Ramaz. This means public policy experts are making decisions based on conditions which are not relevant to Ramaz, which may make their policy inapplicable to the lucky situation Ramaz finds itself in. Because of Ramaz’s unique situation, I do not think it necessary to place a mandate on those who have been vaccinated. I hope those in positions of authority at Ramaz will take this into account and end the mask mandate for Upper School students this year at Ramaz.