KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Missouri attorney general’s lawsuit, which was filed on Tuesday, hits home for doctors at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
The lawsuit was filed by Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who seeks to prevent school districts from establishing mask mandates that require students to wear face coverings while they’re in classrooms.
The Center for Disease Control is among the medical sources that advise mask use can prevent the spread of viral infections, including COVID-19 and the Delta variant.
Leaders at Children’s Mercy Hospital said they currently have 16 COVID-19 patients, including five in intensive care and a few in the hospital’s neonatal unit. Pediatricians spoke out against Schmitt’s lawsuit on Tuesday, advising the public of the efficacy of mask use for pediatric patients.
“We have data – tons of data – from schools. I don’t know how much more data we need to say that masks work. That rock has been looked under. We know the data is there. We know that masks work,” Dr. Angie Myers, an infectious disease expert with Children’s Mercy said.
The Delta variant is proving to be more contagious than the original strain of the virus, and unlike the first wave, children are susceptible to infection.
Doctors said mask wearing over the past 18 months helped control other viral infections as well, including RSV, which was virtually absent during 2020. However, doctors at Children’s Mercy said when people stopped mask wearing regularly, and went back to assembling in groups, the concern of RSV returned.
“Masking helps decrease the spread of those, too. If kids are masked more in schools, we may not see as much of the other respiratory viruses as well,” Dr. Jennifer Watts, chief emergency management medical officer at Children’s Mercy Hospital said.
Several Kansas City area school districts that had originally chosen to make face coverings optional in the classroom have changed their minds, and now, have taken on mask requirements after all.
Pediatricians at Children’s Mercy said there are very few exceptions when it comes to children who shouldn’t wear masks. Meyers said they include developmental disabilities and severe forms of autism. However, asthma isn’t an exemption, and apathy certainly isn’t either.
In a written statement, Schmitt said his lawsuit would include any school district requiring students to wear masks. A potential ruling in his favor could strike down any existing mask mandates.