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It was the face plant seen round the world.
Oregon high school athlete Maggie Williams collapsed at the finish line after setting a new record in the 800-meters. She and her coach blamed the COVID-19 mask the teenager was forced to wear during the competition, a mandate the Oregon Health Authority has since amended.
Until at least June 15, students in Malibu will still be asked to wear masks outdoors, despite new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that says masks aren’t necessary outdoors when fully vaccinated people are not in large groups.
Whether masks have hi been necessary at all for youngsters is still up for debate. After all, the CDC says COVID-19 has resulted in the deaths of 277 people under 18 in the U.S., about .46 per 100,000. This is far fewer deaths in that age group than in a typical flu season.
Still, on April 29, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Superintendent Ben Drati told parents, “For now, all students must still wear masks indoors and outdoors.”
Malibu Elementary School parent and ICU nurse Heather Alfano says masks are doing more harm to kids than good — and she casts some of the blame on educators.
“They are 100 percent making them wear masks for P.E.,” Alfano told Surfside News. “Even going as far as getting on a bullhorn to tell them to pull their masks back up if they bring them down to breathe for too long.”
In a letter to educators and health care officials, Alfano details her concerns and says she would be happy to help educate the community on proper mask use.
“Masks are not found to have any effect in outdoor contact sports settings in kids,” she says. “This would also apply to PE and recess. It is important that we not discourage kids from exercising when there is no gain from masking.”
In the letter, Alfano recounts how a local boy in a mask “overheated at P.E. and felt dizzy.”
He was sent to the nurse’s office and asked to put on a second mask and sit down. His mother was called to pick him up and told the boy could not return to school without a negative COVID test.
“Not only is this counterintuitive to what the needs of the child were in this situation, this is also creating a mess for local pediatrician’s offices with unnecessary testing and follow up with an asymptomatic child,” Alfano said.
“When a person overheats during exercise, taking a mask break and increasing their oxygen supply would make sense. Adding a second mask was not only an ineffective intervention, but it was also dangerous.”
But this is not the only dangerous scenario involving masks. Alfano says during a tide pool field trip “a child’s mask was splashed with ocean water.”
The teacher decided to rinse the boy’s mask with fresh water from a water bottle and asked the boy to place the wet mask back on his face.
“This is problematic. A cloth/hospital mask is not safe or effective once wet,” said Alfano. “Asking a child to breathe through a piece of wet cloth is absurd, and actually is known to decrease the available oxygen down by 20 percent.”
Indeed, the CDC says, “A wet mask can make it difficult to breathe and may not work as well” as a dry mask.
“If a mask gets wet, even due to sweat or heavy breathing, they are useless,” says Alfano. “A wet mask is not filtering adequately and hard to breathe through. When a person exhales in a wet mask it actually forces their exhalation out around the edges of the mask at a stronger force causing aerosolization, which is how COVID-19 is actually spread.”
The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District is showing no sign of lifting its mask mandate.
This makes no sense, says Alfano.
“If we are truly following the science behind our COVID numbers, CDC recommendations, masks, risk mitigation, and trust in vaccines for adults, then we must consider updating our protocols,” she says. “We, as parents, should not have to be providing data to get the masks off of our children outside. The burden should be on the district to show us why they are necessary.”
On Monday, L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said, “While the county's metrics continue to remain low and stable, there continues to be COVID-19 transmission in California, particularly among those who are not fully vaccinated. For that reason, the state will be keeping its current masking guidance until June 15, and L.A. County will do the same.”