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Mississippi pediatrician group advocates for universal masking in schools

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 9:44 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Some schools in the state returned to class this week. And other are preparing to go back in the next few weeks.

But it’s all happening at the same time as those rising COVID case numbers. And some of the state’s pediatricians don’t believe masks should be an option.

A ping-pong type school year was the reality for many last year switching from in-person, to virtual and back. And that’s why the Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that every student and staff member across the state mask up.

“It’s really hard for teachers to know who’s vaccinated and who’s not vaccinated, and we really don’t want to add an additional burden onto our teachers to figure that out,” said pediatrician and MSAAP President.

Another reason is the low vaccination rates.

Dr. Anita Henderson points to the 12-15 age range, just 7 percent of those young people in the state are fully vaccinated. And then there are those under 12 that aren’t eligible for the shots.

“Cases in children in Mississippi are going through the roof,” explained Henderson. “We have had more calls today about all of this. About… my child was exposed at camp.. my child was exposed at daycare... my child was exposed on a youth retreat.”

Henderson says districts have to take into consideration that kind of community spread.

“We want our kids in school,” she reiterated. “We’d rather have them in school wearing a mask then at home virtually.”

Clinton Public Schools says it’s relying on the data to guide their decisions. But it’s not out of the question that their guidelines could change during the school year.

“In our plan, we have a phrase in there about if the data shows that masks are needed, then we can enforce that,” described CPSD Public Information Officer Robert Chapman. “We have the opportunity for the superintendent to mandate mask across the district but, right now, the superintendent has looked and said that right now it’s optional because the numbers in our local area don’t necessarily reflect the numbers across our county, much less across our state.”

If there is any positive in the recent surge in cases, Henderson says they have had more people calling with an interest in the vaccine.

She reminds folks that it takes two weeks after your second dose to reach the highest immunity those shots provide. So, she says to get it as soon as possible.

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