House Republicans Demand CDC Explain ‘Nonsensical Guidance that Forces Kids into Masks’

Elementary schoolchildren wearing a protective face masks in the classroom. Education during epidemic. - stock photo
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House Republicans on Monday sent a letter to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Rochelle Walensky, demanding she explain the federal health agency’s scientific basis for its coronavirus guidance on children in schools, including the “nonsensical” recommendation for universal masking.

“BREAKING: Just sent a letter to the CDC Director demanding she explain the nonsensical guidance that forces kids into masks & doesn’t account for irreversible harm to kids’ social & education development,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) said on Monday.

“They’re following the politics—not ‘The Science.’ Kids deserve better,” he added:

The letter itself notes that the CDC has “consistently failed to consider the crushing impact its COVID-19 policies have had on our nation’s children.”

“We have long known transmission among children is low and symptoms are mild for most of them,” the Republicans wrote. “Yet, the CDC has refused to follow the science.”

“Rather, it has blindly tried to prevent infection at all costs—sacrificing our children’s mental, physical, and emotional health,” they continued, warning that America’s children are “paying—and will continue to pay—the price for the CDC’s decisions for years to come.”

The letter specifically blasts the CDC for current guidance recommending the quarantine of any student in close contact with someone who tests positive for the virus:

This can lead to weeks long disruptions for entire classrooms creating instability for students and childcare chaos for working parents. There are major health, social, developmental, and educational risks to keeping children home from school. Schools are a vital point of contact for public health services: mental health support, special therapies, free school meals, physical activity, early developmental skills, and sighting signs of child abuse at home.1 Vaccines are available for anyone over five years of age and Congress allocated $190 billion to reopen schools safely.2 No student should be forced to learn virtually. 

Republicans also wrote that the current CDC guidance, which recommends “universal indoor masking by all students (ages 2 years and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status,” does not follow the science, as “the extent of the protection masks provide, particularly in schools, remains unknown—and it might be very small.” Yet, the CDC, Republicans continued, have relied on a “flawed study from Arizona” to push the policy:

The CDC continues to rely on and cite to a flawed study from Arizona, which the CDC published in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, to defend masking children in schools. This study did not control for days students actually spent in the classroom, improved ventilation, vaccination status or other mitigation measures. Instead, the schools without mask mandates were in session for more days during the data collection than those who had mask mandates—nearly doubling the in-person time for students in schools without mask mandates. The Arizona study data does not paint an accurate picture of mask effectiveness for children in school. 

Further, other studies relied upon by the CDC do not show that masks, on their own, provide any additional protection to children. Several experts note it is entirely possible that open windows or increased ventilation accounts for nearly all the mitigation benefit in a classroom and other “layered” interventions may contribute only a marginal benefit or none at all.

They also noted the other issues associated with forcing children to wear masks, including how masks hinder language development and affect them emotionally and socially. 

“Covering a child’s face mutes these nonverbal forms of communication and can result in robotic and emotionless interactions, anxiety, and depression,” they wrote. 

Overall, the Republicans concluded that the CDC’s guidances “have failed to factor in—let alone prioritize—children’s social, emotional, and educational development.” They added:

In fact, CDC is undermining its own credibility as it continues to jeopardize an entire generation’s development. In order to better understand the CDC’s decisions regarding America’s children, please schedule a staff briefing on all of the above topics no later than February 7, 2022.

The full letter, signed by Scalise, House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer (R-KY), as well as Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Mark Green (R-TN), Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA), can be found here. 

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