The problem, critics said, is that many people who oppose masks in classrooms also tend to oppose other mitigation measures, like improved ventilation or smaller teaching bubbles.
“It can’t be a dichotomy between requiring masks and allowing children to become infected,” said Deepti Gurdasani, a clinical epidemiologist at Queen Mary University in London. “It’s hugely irresponsible to expose kids to these risks.”
Then, too, scientists said, Black and Asian children are more likely to be hospitalized from the disease, much as Black and ethnic minority adults are statistically more likely to have severe illnesses or die from it.
“What we need to keep in mind is that children, much like adults, are not all in the same boat when they face the pandemic,” said Zubaida Haque, a member of the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, a coalition of experts that has been highly critical of the government’s pandemic response.
For some, the time has come to act. Lisa Diaz, a mother from the northwest of England, campaigned on social media for the recent school strike to send a message to the government that they do not agree with its approach. “These are our children,” she said. “They are not numbers on a sheet.”
For other parents, however, the instinct is simply to say good riddance.
“I think the assumption is that everyone, certainly the parents, are all double vaccinated at this point,” said Robert Loynes, who was picking up his daughter from school recently in London. “I haven’t seen teachers wearing masks, but I also am fine with that. I don’t expect them to, so it kind of feels back to normal, which in my mind is a good thing.”
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