Millions of children are headed back to school. For many, it’s the first time in over a year they’re gathering in person, something medical experts say is much healthier for the kids than distance learning. 

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Educators worry, however, that in-person instruction may be halted due to widespread COVID-19 outbreaks in school, in which case children will be forced back into distance learning. 

Pediatric COVID-19 Cases Rising

Pediatric COVID-19 cases continue to rise. More than 204,000 COVID-19 cases were reported among children last week, the second-highest on record. More than 300 children are being admitted to hospitals every day. 

In an effort to minimize infections, many school districts are considering mask mandates, with some getting considerable push-back from parents who feel masks should be optional. 

A Gallup poll shows 48 percent of parents say all students should wear masks at school.  41 percent say no students should be required to wear masks and 11 percent say masks should only be required for unvaccinated students. 

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The governors of Florida, Texas, Arkansas, Arizona, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah have outlawed school mask mandates. The U.S. Department of Education announced it’s conducting a civil rights investigation into Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah for possibly discriminating against students with compromised immune systems and other issues that make students more vulnerable to catching COVID-19.  

“We know the spread of COVID happens when masks are not being used,” said Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

For now, the Department of Education is ignoring states like Florida, Texas, Arkansas and Arizona, because they are already facing legal challenges to their mask mandate bans. 

CDC Data Disputed

The CDC says based on recent data, school districts should require masks. However, some dispute those findings.  

Doug Badger, a senior fellow of Domestic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation said in a statement that the CDC data is flawed, arguing the infection rate among kids in schools with mask mandates, “was not statistically significant compared with schools where mask use was optional.”

The American Association of Pediatrics updated their back-to-school guidance “that includes a recommendation that everyone older than the age of 2 wear masks, regardless of vaccination status.”

W. Chris Winter, M.D., author of The Rested Child, told CBN News although masks are unpleasant, they are necessary for school children at this time.

“Is it going to prevent every community spread of a Delta virus variant? Of course, it’s not. Nothing that we know of can.  Can it slow or hinder the progress of something of that nature? I think the data is absolutely there.  It’s not debatable really,” he said, “Masks work.” 

Proponents of mask mandates say the masks may make the difference between keeping schools open and shutting them down due to outbreaks. 

Those who oppose mask mandates say parents should have the right to decide what’s best for their children.  

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