This week, the Berkeley Unified School District in leftist Berkeley, California, announced they intend for students in their district, including elementary school children, to wear KN95 masks in school. Superintendent Brent Stephens wrote, “BUSD has ordered 10,000 KN95 masks (both pediatric and adult), which we expect to be delivered by about mid-week. (We have about 30,000 more KN95 masks on order.) We’ll quickly begin distributing these to schools, and will begin to transition all students and staff to these new masks. More information about moving to KN95s will come soon.”
Stephens also noted the latest revisions to testing, contact tracing and modified quarantines, which he wrote will focus on:
- Twice Per Week Testing: Increasing rapid COVID testing for all students and staff in school communities with higher case counts to twice per week.
- Community Notice vs. Individual Notice: Temporarily adjusting contact tracing at those schools from an individual approach to a school community focus. This means that the school community will receive a letter about elevated case counts, and that all students and staff will be treated as if they are at higher risk for COVID contact.
- Ongoing Testing for High-Risk Activities: In high transmission risk scenarios (sports, unmasked exposures, etc.) we will still require and track the modified quarantine testing of certain exposed individuals.
- Ongoing Testing for High Risk Individuals or Groups: Public Health may prioritize certain people to test twice weekly, and then have a goal of testing “most” other people on a campus during the testing dates that week.
In late January of 2021, Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky recommended that the general public not wear N95 masks, stating, “They’re very hard to breathe in when you wear them properly. They’re very hard to tolerate when you wear them for long periods of time,” as ABC6 reported. She added, “I have spent a reasonable amount of time in an N95 mask. They’re hard to tolerate all day every day….And in fact, when you really think about how well people will wear them, I worry that if, if we suggest or require that people wear an N95, they won’t wear them all the time.”
In August 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) stated, “The benefits of wearing masks in children for COVID-19 control should be weighed against potential harm associated with wearing masks, including feasibility and discomfort, as well as social and communication concerns. Factors to consider also include age groups, sociocultural and contextual considerations and availability of adult supervision and other resources to prevent transmission.”
For children between six and 11 years of age, a risk-based approach should be applied to the decision to use of a mask. This approach should take into consideration:
- intensity of transmission in the area where the child is and updated data/available evidence on the risk of infection and transmission in this age group;
- social and cultural environment such as beliefs, customs, behaviour or social norms that influence the community and population’s social interactions, especially with and among children;
- the child’s capacity to comply with the appropriate use of masks and availability of appropriate adult supervision;
- potential impact of mask wearing on learning and psychosocial development; and additional specific considerations and adaptions for specific settings such as households with elderly relatives, schools, during sport activities or for children with disabilities or with underlying diseases.
Forbes, discussing the KN95, N95, and KF94 masks, explained that there wasn’t much difference in effectiveness, writing, “The difference between the three masks comes down to which country or organization certified the mask—the U.S. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health certifies N95 masks, while KN95 masks are manufactured in China and meet Chinese standards and KF94 masks meet Korean standard requirements.”