Letter: Face mask homework for willing parents

Posted 9/10/20

To the editor:

We can all agree that keeping our children and teachers safe and healthy is a top priority. This letter’s purpose is to ask parents to truly understand how the requirement to …

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Letter: Face mask homework for willing parents


To the editor:

We can all agree that keeping our children and teachers safe and healthy is a top priority. This letter’s purpose is to ask parents to truly understand how the requirement to wear cloth face masks throughout the school day impacts students and teachers.

There are very strong feelings about cloth face masks. However, if we put feelings aside and look at facts, the existing scientific evidence is not encouraging that cloth masks prevent disease or can be safely worn for several hours on consecutive days.

During my 22 years as an executive manager, I’ve never asked an employee to perform tasks that I was not willing to do myself. I ask Barrington parents to do the same for their children by following the Barrington Public School mask requirements themselves.

If you aren’t already doing so as a work requirement, after your breakfast, wear a mask while going about your daily activities for 6.5 hours with short breaks outdoors for five consecutive days. Only after you do this will you honestly understand what your child or their teachers will experience while wearing a mask all week at school.

Wearing masks in school may for some promote anxiety, fear of social interaction and/or breathing difficulties. Available evidence shows prolonged use of cloth masks may result in increased risk of respiratory infection due to moisture retention and poor filtration. Masks may also be a distraction from the learning process and children may have extreme difficulty following mask guidelines.

In the past, cloth masks were not considered protective against respiratory viruses and use was not encouraged by the CDC. The evidence shows some respiratory droplets may become trapped by cloth masks, however microscopic viral particles can easily escape while breathing, talking or coughing. Today, CDC conveys on its Public Health Guidance for Community-Related Exposure page that those who come in contact with those infected with COVID-19 are capable of becoming infected whether or not masks are worn.

The purpose of public health measures is to mitigate risk and optimize physical health, social health, and well-being. Therefore, is it reasonable or scientifically reliable to require children and teachers to wear masks in school when it’s unproven if cloth masks are safe to wear continuously or will impact the transmission of SARS-CoV-2?

Like many circulating respiratory viruses, government data shows that healthy individuals under age 65 without underlying medical conditions infected with COVID-19 do not typically require medical care. Complications in healthy children are particularly rare, even more rare than seasonal flu. Consequently, if public health measures purpose in-part is to mitigate risk, doesn’t it make sense that teachers predisposed to COVID-19 complications, in consult with their doctor, should have the option to stay home without penalty of losing their job?

Choosing to wear a mask in school should be respected. However, if you feel cloth masks should not be a condition to attend school, please contact the superintendent to politely encourage leadership in reconsidering this policy.

Tom Siedzik


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.