School Mask Mandates: What You Should Know
Children ages 2 and up should plan to wear masks upon returning to school in the fall, the Centers for Disease Control states. Teachers, school staff and faculty should practice mask-wearing, as well, regardless of vaccination status. This means that even if you are vaccinated, you should wear a mask in school. Some states, like Louisiana, are requiring it at least through Sept. 1, 2021 for kindergarten through 12th grade, with the option to extend if necessary.
As we’ve come to learn over the past 17 months, masking is an essential step we can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19. And with the rise of COVID-19 variants impacting our nation’s youth, it’s imperative that now, more than ever, we heed the advice from scientists and medical professionals.
The number one thing we can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is get vaccinated. But because children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine, the second-best thing we can do is wear a mask.
The Gulf South is experiencing a fourth surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Close to 90% of hospitalized patients have not been vaccinated. The Gulf South region, as well as the nation, is now experiencing what is being referred to as “the pandemic of the unvaccinated.’’ Not only does opting out of the COVID-19 vaccine put you at risk for contracting — and carrying — COVID-19, but it puts vulnerable members of our community at risk too. And that includes children.
So, what can we do to protect children against COVID-19?
1. Get vaccinated.
2. Spread awareness on the importance of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
3. Wear a mask.
4. Encourage your children to wear their masks, too.
Looking for tips to encourage your child to wear their mask? Here are some ways.
• Make the masks exciting! Your children will be more likely to wear a mask if the colors and patterns make them happy. Try searching for masks that have their favorite cartoon character or favorite sport.
• Make sure the mask fits them comfortably while adhering to guidelines. If elastic bands behind their ears are uncomfortable for your child, explore masks that tie in the back instead. Feel free to explore various styles and materials to find the right fit for your child.
• Be a role model. Children like to copy who they look up to, and parents and guardians are one of the greatest leaders for children. Show your child that wearing a mask isn’t a big deal after all! Does your child have a favorite actor, athlete or musician? A quick Google search could lead you to a picture of your child’s idol wearing a mask, which will inspire your child to do the same.
• Give them a choice. Children are more likely to follow instructions if they feel like they have a say in the matter. Give them the choice of which mask they’d like to wear that day. If you’re able to have a wide variety of styles, that can be helpful. We recommend giving your child the choice among several options to grant them autonomy without overwhelming them.
• Offer incentives. This could be as simple as telling your child if they wear their mask while running errands without any issues, they can have screen time that evening or a treat after dinner. Each incentive will be different for each family and child. Find what works for you!
• Explain to them that by wearing a mask, they could be a hero and save a life. Simple as that.
Children are resilient, but they can only be as resilient as the adults in their lives allow them to be. Through support, communication and understanding — and through getting vaccinated, if eligible, and wearing your mask in public spaces and especially in school — we, together, can take one step closer to ending the pandemic.
To find a vaccination event in your area, click here.