BATON ROUGE — Today, the Louisiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics sent a letter to Gov. John Bel Edwards stating that the 750 member organization strongly recommends universal masking while indoors in schools. Gov. Edwards’ temporary indoor mask mandate went into effect on August 2, 2021 and will remain in place for everyone age five and up until September 1, unless it becomes necessary to extend it. As the fourth surge of COVID-19 continues causing an alarming increase in cases and hospitalizations among adults and students alike, the mandate reflects the fact that no one under age 12 is able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine as the school year gets underway.
“I’m very appreciative of the Louisiana AAP and its support,” said Gov. Edwards. “Pediatricians know first-hand how the Delta variant of COVID-19 is impacting our children unlike any other variant before. No child under age 12 is eligible to receive a vaccine, which is why universal masking is one of the best tools to help protect them, teachers and support staff as they all head back to school. Our children are among our most vulnerable, and keeping them safe while in school should be a priority for all of us. In-person learning is important for our children, and wearing masks indoors is critical to making certain our schools stay safe and open.”
In the letter, the LAAP lists several reasons for supporting universal masking including:
- A significant portion of the student population is not currently eligible for vaccination.
- Masking provides the best protection of unvaccinated students and teachers from COVID-19 and reduces transmission.
- Many schools lack of a system to monitor vaccine status among students, teachers, and staff making policy based on vaccine status impractical.
- Vaccination rates in Louisiana remain low and are inadequate to provide herd immunity at this time.
- As the pandemic continues, there is growing concern that variants could emerge that could cause more severe disease. Masks remain an important mitigation strategy to reduce the likelihood of this occurring.
- The Delta variant is eight times more contagious than the novel COVID-19.
“As advocates for children, we are concerned about the health and well-being of every child. We know that vaccines, masking and social distancing are the best ways to protect them from COVID-19. We urge you to continue to support the health of all Louisiana citizens by requiring universal masking indoors for everyone in the school setting until such time as science and medical experts determine it safe to discontinue current policy…”