Local doctors ask D91 School Board to require masks in elementary schools
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IDAHO FALLS — Local medical professionals are asking the Idaho Falls School District 91 school board to change the language regarding the face mask policy in the district’s back-to-school plan.
On Aug. 6, District 91 announced that “a mask or face covering is recommended indoors and on buses when social distancing isn’t possible.” After the plan was released, a letter was created and endorsed by over a dozen doctors and given to the school board Sunday evening.
The letter asks that the school board “consider a vote to make masks or face coverings required in elementary schools” and “that once vaccines are approved for children 12 and under, that this policy remains in effect until families who choose to vaccinate their children are allowed adequate time to do so.”
“The vaccine is not approved yet for children younger than 12 years old, so the least we can do is protect them once they go to school,” Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Martha Buitrago — whose private practice is Idaho Falls Infectious Diseases — told EastIdahoNews.com.
The letter explains that until a vaccine is approved for children 12 and under, “a relaxed” mask policy leaves elementary students, teachers, faculty and families vulnerable to the spread of the infection.
Buitrago said there is a surge of pediatric COVID-19 cases across the country. After talking with pediatricians, she learned there are also more pediatric COVID-19 cases being admitted to hospitals.
“We feel strongly that nonpharmaceutical interventions such as masking will prevent some children from getting sick,” Buitrago said.
District 91 spokeswoman Margaret Wimborne said that the district’s plan of recommending face coverings or masks when social distancing isn’t possible falls in line with other health organization’s guidelines.
The American Academy of Pediatrics “recommends universal masking because a significant portion of the student population is not yet eligible for vaccines.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also “recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.”
“We’ve received a handful of comments from parents who said they’ll continue to have their children wear masks and have expressed support for a mask mandate, and then we’ve also heard from parents who are happy that it is a recommendation (and) not a mandate,” Wimborne said about the back-to-school plan. “We’ll continue to be monitoring local conditions … and make changes as needed.”
Wimborne added that the agenda for the next board meeting, which is Wednesday night, was set prior to receiving the letter. There’s currently a petition underway asking the board to hold an emergency meeting.
Citizens, or concerned friends or relatives to citizens in or around the D91 area, can sign the Public Endorsement by clicking here.
A list of public endorsements will be given to the school board prior to the emergency meeting, if one is held.
Another letter was also put together for community members who are opposed to a mask requirement. That letter can be read here.