Back to school: Doctor ranks best mask types for kids in the classroom

ByKate Larsen via KGO logo
Thursday, August 12, 2021
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As pediatric COVID cases reach alarming new levels across the country, Bay Area parents are preparing for the school year.

SAN FRANCISCO -- As pediatric COVID cases reach alarming new levels across the country, Bay Area parents are preparing for the school year.

"We are definitely worried," said San Francisco mom, Isela Munoz, whose son is starting preschool next month. "We are definitely going to buy more masks, we were just teaching him how to use hand sanitizer, and maintaining distance."

"I think we're all concerned," said Joseph Mallon.

Mallon's son is starting kindergarten in San Francisco next week and is ready with a stash of masks. "We're primarily using surgical masks, that's what they use in hospitals and you can replace them."

With the highly contagious Delta variant, how can families maximize their back-to-school mask shopping?

To find out, ABC7 News reporter Kate Larsen spoke to mom and doctor, Anne Liu, with Stanford Children's Health.

RELATED: Doctor shares 5-point COVID strategy for getting kids back to school safely

"Why is it, that what was good enough last year is not good enough now? And I think that that is a very, very understandable frustration. I think that we're all feeling that. I think the Delta virus is moving the goal posts, it's changing the game," said Dr. Liu, an infectious disease and pediatric immunology specialist.

Dr. Liu says the best kind of mask for your kid is, "a mask that they can keep on."

Ranked, she says the most protective is:

1: N95/KN95 mask OR a cloth and surgical mask together

2: Single surgical mask

3: Single cloth mask

Dr. Liu's youngest child is too young to be vaccinated, so he wears additional protection in the classroom. "Face shields and some sort of goggles or eye protection."

"We've talked to him about if you're the only one in your class who's doing it, it's okay. And you know, don't worry about that, it's just part of our wanting to keep you safe."

She also recommends getting back to the basics of frequent hand washing and sanitizing. "I think it's good on multiple levels, including prevention of other respiratory viruses."

As for testing, she says to do it, if there's a direct exposure or symptoms. "Any respiratory virus symptoms, or even if a kid just has like a fever or feels sort of sluggish, or has diarrhea, they should get tested."

And because virus levels with the Delta variant rise so much faster, Dr. Liu says symptoms usually appear in four to six days rather than the five to seven days with the original variant.