Letter: Physicians urge masks in schools

I am writing on behalf of the Colorado Academy of Family Physicians, which represents over 2,600 physicians, residents and medical students in every county in Colorado. As the debate intensifies over how our schools can open safely amidst a deadly pandemic, I felt we need to educate the public about how important it is for everyone who will be in a school building to wear a mask this fall.

While some early messages caused understandable confusion about mask effectiveness, we now have overwhelming evidence that even simple cloth masks dramatically reduce the spread of COVID-19. Masks protect others if the wearer is unknowingly infected with COVID-19, and they may protect the wearer from contracting the disease. Students and their families should also be given guidelines on effective mask use and cleaning, as well as hand washing.

There is also overwhelming evidence that the virus spreads rapidly between people who are inside and nearby to each other — precisely the conditions of an open school. We do acknowledge there are certain circumstances where some teachers, staff, and students may be unable to wear a mask, such as for those who are too young or who have a disability or medical condition for which safe mask use is not possible. Face shields or other forms of clear physical barriers might be needed in those cases, and mask policies should make accommodations for these situations.

I, along with the family physicians of Colorado, urge the county health department and school district to adopt a policy requiring mask use in schools. Wearing masks will safeguard our communities and mitigate the spread of coronavirus.

John C. Cawley, MD, FAAFP
President, Colorado Academy of Family Physicians

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