Letter: Implications of school board decision on masks
On Aug. 9, many concerned parents attended the Steamboat Springs School District school board meeting to make public comment in support of keeping masks optional for our children, knowing that science supports the decision. Those in favor of having masks optional was over 10 to 1. Ten days later, the school board held an emergency meeting, which denied public comment and changed their original guidance on masks mandates. Clearly, this decision was based on political fear, not medical science.
The fact is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Routt County Public Health data does not support a decision to mandate masks. This can be shown by comparing COVID-19 and 2018-19 influenza hospitalization and death numbers.
Over the past 18 months of the pandemic, Colorado has experienced about 34,000 hospitalizations overall from COVID-19 cases. Of those hospitalizations, 1,016 (or 3%) were children under the age of 20. And of the 7,000 deaths related to COVID-19, 14 (or 0.2%) were children under the age of 20.
By comparison, the U.S. experienced a moderate influenza season in 2018-19. (Data specific to Colorado is not readily available, but we can deduce the percentages are consistent with the aggregate U.S. statistics.) During that flu season, the U.S. experienced 490,000 hospitalizations overall. Of those hospitalizations, 46,000 were under the age of 18 (or 9%). And of the 34,000 flu-related deaths, 480 (or 1.4%) were children under the age of 18.
In summary, the 2018-19 flu season had a pediatric hospitalization rate that was three times higher than we’ve experienced with COVID-19. And the pediatric mortality rate was seven times higher.
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The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
In Routt County, we’ve had one hospitalization in the past two weeks. It’s unknown to the public whether that hospitalization was a child. Those over age 12 have a 73% vaccination rate. Steamboat Springs has a 70% vaccination rate. Our county has one of the highest vaccination rates at 75%. We are one of the healthiest counties in the country.
Imposing a mask mandate on school children understanding this comparison of COVID-19 and influenza statistics, we set a precedent where every child in every school year should be masked every day, all day in a misguided attempt to avoid spreading the seasonal flu. That is not a precedent we should ever be setting.
Start using medical science and not political fear to drive public health policy for our children and our community.
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On Tuesday, Peak Health Alliance, a nonprofit, locally-led insurance purchasing alliance, gave a presentation to the Routt County commissioners. We attended the meeting (remotely), and this is what we learned: