Virginia health chief questions effectiveness of masks at school

RICHMOND, Va. — For nearly two years, Virginians have relied on health experts for guidance to help protect themselves and others from COVID-19. This includes preventive measures such as masks, vaccines and everything else. But what happens when doctors start to disagree about the effectiveness of the mitigation strategies we’re used to?

“There is definitely some disagreement,” said Virginia’s top health official, Dr. Colin Greene. “Unfortunately, it will be difficult to clear up any confusion.”

Dr. Greene was nominated by Governor Glenn Youngkin to serve as acting health commissioner of Virginia. He advises the governor on all health-related matters, including children wearing masks in school. In this regard, he said that wearing the mask can have long-term effects on young children.

“There are downsides to masking,” Dr. Greene said. “A decrease in emotion recognition, associated with communication, especially for people with hearing loss.”

Greene also questioned the effectiveness of masks, citing anecdotal research showing that face coverings provide limited protection against the omicron variant in children.

CBS 6 asked Greene for data, study or evidence to support this claim.

“If you’re looking for a clear research answer from a published study, that’s going to be hard to find,” he said.

Greene said the reason there isn’t clear research yet is because omicron hasn’t been around long enough and there wouldn’t be an ethical way to conduct an ideal study.

“You should take a bunch of school kids, and you should flip a coin and randomize them and say, ‘Oh, y’all are going to wear masks, and not all of you are, and we’ll see how many of you get sick. on either side,” he said.

Greene explained that the lack of research has led to a disconnect in the American medical community. For example, the Centers for Disease Control, the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Epidemiology, and the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics all recommend mask wearing for children 2 and older in school.

However, Greene thinks the Commonwealth should take note of other countries and cities that have dropped mask requirements.

“The CDC equivalent for the European Union does not recommend mask-wearing for school children under 12,” he said.

CBS 6 also asked Dr. Greene if the governor should have waited until after omicron’s push to make masks optional at school.

“I don’t think there was a significant need for it,” he replied. “I know it helps people feel better because they kind of have it in their minds that masking stops COVID, but I think right now the evidence is that masking may or may not stop COVID. omicron.”

A study published by the CDC on Friday shows that people who wore cloth masks indoors between February and December 2021 were 56% less likely to test positive for COVID-19 compared to those who did not wear a mask. . Those who wore surgical masks were 66% less likely and those who wore KN95 masks were 83% less likely.

The data was collected before the omicron wave hit the United States

Sara H. Byrd