Scott Gottlieb: Risks of Children Wearing Masks Outdoors Outweigh Benefits
Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Friday that he doesn’t believe children should be required to wear masks outside as the risks of heat exposure are “probably greater than any benefit they are going to derive” from the mask.
Gottlieb’s comments came during an appearance on CNBC’s Squawk Box after he was asked how summer camps and similar settings should keep children safe from the virus as kids under the age of 12 are not yet eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Kids are at lower risk overall so the infection poses less risk to kids to start,” Gottlieb said. “I think you need to still be mindful of situations where you can have what we call ‘super spreading events. So, when you congregate people in confined environments where there’s poor air circulation, I do think you need to be mindful.”
He then said you “could see a situation this summer where kids aren’t wearing masks outside” and added that he doesn’t think kids should be wearing face coverings outside.
“But as they go to indoor settings you know go into lunchrooms and they congregate in confined spaces with poor air circulation spaces that we know are conducive to the spread I could still see a situation where you’re taking precautions with children, you’re also taking precautions with hand washing,” he said.
“I think the combination of things you can continue to do in that setting without imposing too much burden on children that really interferes with the summer experience hopefully can mitigate a lot of the risk,” he added.
When host Rebecca Quick noted that children would remove their masks in the lunchroom in order to eat, Gottlieb said camps and the like can space children apart as businesses and restaurants have “successfully for the most part throughout the crisis.”
“There are ways to reduce risk in those settings and also to improve air filtration, improve airflow and air quality in those settings,” he said, adding that summer camps should be mindful of such precautions.
Gottlieb’s comments come as the CDC is expected to update its guidance on mask-wearing and children at summer camp. The agency currently recommends that all campers, staff and visitors use face masks at all times, with few exceptions including eating, drinking or swimming. The current guidance does not exempt fully-vaccinated teens from mask-wearing.
Experts and parents alike have pushed back against the guidance, noting that the CDC has said vaccinated adults do not need to wear a mask in most settings, whether outdoors or indoors.
A recent op-ed in the Washington Post by a group of epidemiologists and doctors notes that the already-low risk for children “nearly vanishes as cases plummet.”
“As we saw in Israel and Britain, vaccinating adults indirectly protects children,” the group writes. “The same trend is evident here in the United States: Adult vaccination has lowered covid-19 incidence among children by 50 percent in the past four weeks. On average, fewer than 0.01 percent of Americans are currently infected, and the chance of an asymptomatic person transmitting to a close contact is about 0.7 percent. That yields a scant 0.00007 percent chance that any close contact will transmit infection to a child. If the contact is outdoors, the risk appears to be more than 1,000 times lower.”
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told House lawmakers on Wednesday that the agency is revising its guidance to account for vaccinated teens.
“My whole goal is to make sure camps can remain open and that outbreaks don’t occur,” Walensky said during the hearing. She added that her own children did not go to camps last summer. “I want camps to be open this summer.”
“This is complex. Things that we knew a year ago are different now because we have much more information and they continue to evolve,” she said. “I understand the challenge.”
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Published at Fri, 28 May 2021 13:33:58 +0000
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