Advocating for kids: Resources that can help

In a post last week, I volunteered (I need to stop doing this) to create a one-pager that outlined the current state of affairs and evidence for safely opening schools during a pandemic. Well, I got about a million requests. So, here you go! I hope this helps amplify your voice. Feel free to copy and paste the language and/or disseminate as you see fit. If you’re a paying subscriber, just reply to this email for a PDF.

Some more resources:

  • There are a ton of change.org petitions circulating around, here is a great one about masks in school

  • Texans- Go HERE to make a fuss

  • The situation across the country greatly varies. Some schools cannot make changes because of state-level policies. Other schools are choosing not to implement public health measures. Here are two letter examples/templates you can use dependent on your situation:

    • If you need help writing a letter to the state, here is a great example. My friends and colleagues at IMPACT said “use copy and paste”!

    • Here is letter template for School Boards. Just copy and paste into Word, and then fill in the blanks:

      [DATE]

      Dear Members of the School Board,

      My name is [NAME], and I am [FILL IN SOME DETAILS ABOUT WHO YOU ARE]. I am writing to express my deep concern for the school district’s 2021-2022 plan that makes masks optional and ask that you mandate masks in our schools. The plan to make masks optional goes against the guidance of both the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics; ignores the science on COVID transmission in kids and on the effectiveness of masks; and fails to give our youngest kids—who are not yet vaccine eligible but will be soon—a chance to evade infection after over a year of sacrifice. All available evidence indicates that SARS-CoV-2 will spread wildly in schools without mitigation efforts—including universal masking—firmly in placeThe CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics agree; both agencies have released guidance indicating that schools should mandate masks for students, staff, and visitors. As a local leader, you should listen to them.

      Though infections in our state declined in the late spring and early summer as vaccination rates increased, new variants like Delta pose a serious threat. The Delta variant is much more transmissible than previous variants, and data from our local area reflect that troubling reality.  Infections in [NAME OF STATE OR COUNTY] have increased roughly [X]% over the past [# OF DAYS, WEEKS, OR MONTHS] alone. In addition, the age distribution of new infections and hospitalizations has also shifted downward, with young kids representing a greater proportion of infections and hospitalizations than in previous months. This will only get worse if kids return to school without required masking and other mitigation strategies in place.

      The science is clear on COVID and kids is clear: children can be infected with SARS-CoV-2, can get sick with and dieof COVID-19, and can spread the virus to others.1-3 As of the first week of July 2021, more than 200,000 kids in the U.S. had been hospitalized and nearly 400 kids had died from COVID. A tragically disproportionate number of these kids who experienced severe illness or death were young people of color, 4 whose social and economic vulnerabilities put them at especially high risk. While kids are less likely than adults to experience severe illness or death, the long term consequences of COVID infection on neurological, lung, metabolic, and cardiovascular function are still unknown. Recent studies estimate that anywhere from 10-45% of kids under 12 who are infected with SARS-CoV-2 experience “long haul” symptoms that last more than five weeks after diagnosis5-6, even if they experience mild acute infection. This is all to say, kids have not been and will not be spared in this pandemic. Importantly, kids can also transmit COVID to their unvaccinated, immunocompromised, and otherwise vulnerable family members and friends, which further contributes to community spread and the emergence of new variants of the virus and puts the “end” of this pandemic further out of reach.

      Thankfully, over the past year and a half, we have learned a lot about how to reduce transmission and infections, and masks have emerged as a particularly important, scientifically proven mitigation strategy. Evidence from the CDC shows that the relatively low levels of infections in kids seen during the 2020-2021 school year were, in large part, the result of school closures and widespread mitigation efforts in schools, including mask mandates. Though kids transmit COVID as efficiently as adults and are infected at similar rates to adults5, mask mandates in schools prevented high levels of in-school transmission during the 2020-2021 school year.7 The proven effectiveness of masks is a key reason behind the CDC’s and American Academy of Pediatrics’ current recommendation that students and staff continue to wear masks in schools during the 2021-2022 school year. Again, the science here is clear: reopening schools without mask mandates and other mitigation efforts in place while the Delta variant surges will result in high levels of transmission and infection in kids, which can further contribute to household and community spread, even among the vaccinated. We shouldn’t wait for Delta to spread in schools before putting mask mandates in place; we can and should act in order to prevent any unnecessary disease, death, and suffering.

      Families are depending on you to follow the science and protect the health and safety of our kids and community. Our kids deserve to go to school without worrying about getting sick and spreading the virus to their immunocompromised, unvaccinated, or otherwise vulnerable family members, friends, and neighbors. We shouldn’t ask our young kids and their parents to choose between going to school and staying healthy and safe. Young kids will be eligible for vaccines within the next few months. We should give them the opportunity to be vaccinated before asking them to enter our schools and classrooms unprotected. The science supports masks in schools. Wearing masks is a small sacrifice to make in order to ensure that our kids can remain safe while going to go to school, which we know is important for their intellectual, social, and emotional development.

      I am asking you to listen to the experts, follow the science, and reject the plan to make masks optional. Masks should be required, especially for our most vulnerable unvaccinated students. I am happy to be in touch with any comments, questions, or concerns.

      Sincerely,

      [NAME]

      [CONTACT INFORMATION]

      1. Lewis NM, Chu VT, Ye D, et al. Household Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the United States. Clin Infect Dis 2020. doi:10.1093/cid/ciaa1166

      2. Szablewski CM, Chang KT, Brown MM, et al. SARS-CoV-2 Transmission and Infection Among Attendees of an Overnight Camp – Georgia, June 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69(31):1023-1025. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6931e1

      3. Chu VT, Yousaf AR, Chang K, et al. Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from Children and Adolescents. medRxiv 2020. doi:10.1101/2020.10.10.20210492

      4.     Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Estimated Disease Burden of COVID-19. Accessed June 30, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/burden.html

      5.     Buonsenso, Danilo, et al. "Preliminary evidence on long COVID in children." medRxiv (2021). https://doi.org/10.1111/apa.15870

      6.     Office for National Statistics. Prevalence of ongoing symptoms following coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the UK. Accessed July 18, 2021. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/datasets/alldatarelatingtoprevalenceofongoingsymptomsfollowingcoronaviruscovid19infectionintheuk

      7.     Honein MA, Barrios LC, Brooks JT. Data and Policy to Guide Opening Schools Safely to Limit the Spread of SARS-CoV-2 Infection. JAMA 2021;325(9):823-824. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.0374

Hope this helps!

YLE