Protecting Our Communities
ACOFP AFFILIATE Statement in Support of Mask Requirement in K–12 Schools
The American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians, in addition to the undersigned affiliate organizations, are in support of requiring all students who are two years or older, teachers and staff in K–12 schools to wear face masks while indoors—regardless of vaccination status—during the COVID-19 pandemic, as per expert medical guidance.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have each released updated school guidance recommending a universal masking policy for the purpose of supporting community leaders, leaders in education and public health, and healthcare experts who are collaborating with schools to ensure safe school environments during the COVID-19 pandemic. These recommendations are founded on medical knowledge of the transmission of viruses, observations from the previous school year, the current rise of Delta variant cases and the inability of children under the age of 12 to currently receive the COVID vaccine.
As noted in the interim guidance by AAP, we agree that there should be a priority placed on in-person learning to reduce the shortfalls and inequities that were highlighted during remote learning and to minimize the strain on the mental health of students of all ages that was exacerbated during social isolation. Given the low in-school transmission rates of SARS-CoV-2 when proper prevention measures were in place, such as masking and vaccinating eligible individuals, it only seems logical and prudent to continue with those measures since the new Delta variant is proving to be more transmissible and infectious.
As the 2021–22 school year starts, at least half of all school-aged children are not eligible to receive the COVID vaccine due to their age. Of those eligible, there is still a large portion who will not get vaccinated for various reasons. That leaves the majority of children at risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2 if universal masking is abandoned.
Unfortunately, the medical organizations that represent hundreds of thousands of trained healthcare professionals who have devoted their entire careers to protecting the health of the public have no direct authority to issue mask requirements on federal, state or local levels.
However, we can and do strongly recommend and support the use of face masks for all K–12 schools, per the guidance issued by the CDC.
Once children return to school, an exposure of an entire classroom by one COVID-positive student may result in the quarantine of numerous students and teachers, who will be removed from school for several days or weeks. The act of quarantining a child from school is not only detrimental to the education of the child, but also puts household members at risk, as well as places a burden on working parents and/or caregivers who may have to make difficult decisions about their employment.
The protection and safety of one another in our communities should not be a personal medical decision, or a political decision. This is a public health issue that has already reached catastrophic levels in our country, and we all need to be part of the solution, which is backed by science and guided by medical professionals. Please join us in keeping our children and teachers safe by urging your local and state officials to adopt universal masking in our K–12 schools.
Nicole Bixler, DO, MBA, FACOFP
- American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians of California
- American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians—Oklahoma State Society
- Arizona Society of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians
- Colorado Chapter of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians
- Florida Society of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians
- Indiana Chapter of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians
- Michigan Association of Osteopathic Family Physicians
- Mississippi Chapter of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians
- Missouri Society of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians
- New York State Chapter of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians
- Ohio State Society of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians
- Pennsylvania Osteopathic Family Physicians Society
- Texas Chapter of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians
References of Support
As osteopathic family physicians, we are trained to treat patients of all ages, to use the tools that we have available to the best of our ability, to adhere to recommendations in determining treatment plans and guidance on preventive health measures, and to do the greatest good for the communities we treat. Listed below are just a few of the over 30 references used by the AAP, as well as other traditionally well-respected and often cited medical organizations, news sources and statistics, that helped to inform this statement.
- Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center
- Children and COVID-19: State-Level Data Report
- The COVID-19 Pandemic and Changes in Healthcare Utilization for Pediatric Respiratory and Nonrespiratory Illnesses in the United States
- Reopening Primary Schools During the Pandemic
- COVID-19 in Victorian Schools: An Analysis of Childcare and School Outbreak Data and Evidence-Based Recommendations for Opening Schools & Keeping Them Open
- COVID-19 Cases and Transmission in 17 K–12 Schools—Wood County, Wisconsin, August 31 – November 29, 2020
- Pediatric COVID-19 Cases in Counties With and Without School Mask Requirements—United States, July 1 – September 4, 2021
- Association Between K–12 School Mask Policies and School-Associated COVID-19 Outbreaks—Maricopa and Pima Counties, Arizona, July – August 2021
- An Evidence Review of Face Masks Against COVID-19
- COVID-19, Children and Schools: Overlooked and At Risk
- Can Face Masks Cause Health Problems?
- COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Babies and Children
- Coronavirus Forces Hillsborough Schools to Quarantine 8,707, Set Emergency Meeting
- Virus Outbreaks Temporarily Close 4 Texas School Districts