Should students wear masks? If so, when and for how long? Here's what experts say

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- As educators around the country hatch plans to bring kids back to school amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, the debate around how to do that safely is becoming more complex and confusing by the day. Should students wear masks? When and for how long?

If you were to map where different experts stand on the mask debate, it would be easy to understand the confusion. "The signals should be to wear a mask, period," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, in a recent news conference.

Dr. Sarah Cody says "yes" to mask, but with more conditions. Some, but not all should wear them. And not at all times. For example, it should be a requirement for middle and high school students but not elementary.

The Centers for Disease Control issues a more generic guideline: students and teachers wear masks whenever feasible.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, which represents thousands of pediatricians, issued advice to consider masks if they are developmentally appropriate and can be instituted safely.

That's just to name a few of our most well-known experts.
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Science Magazine recently looked at practices around the world. Schools in China, South Korea, Japan and Vietnam require almost all students to wear masks.

But in Canada, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom mask-wearing is optional for both students and staff.

"The studies have found pretty consistently that kids are half to about a third as likely to catch the virus and that's especially true in younger kids," said Jennifer Couzin-Frankel, staff writer at Science Magazine. She said that would be the consensus from all experts.

That low-risk is reflected at the YMCA. The non-profit cared for more than 10,000 children of essential workers at 170 sites in New York City at the height of the pandemic. It recorded no more than one case at any of their sites.

Cousin-Frankel said the experts she interviewed mostly agreed that safety guidelines must be nimble and tailored to the community.
"We wanted quote-unquote the answer. 'What should a school do, but I don't think there's one answer. It depends on that community, it depends on what's happening there with the virus, it depends on a lot of different factors," she said.
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