Yvonne A. Maldonado, MD, FAAP
Masks are still required in healthcare settings, and that includes Kids First Pediatrics of Raleigh and Clayton. However, New COVID-19 guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlines when communities and families should wear face masks in their day-to-day life outside of healthcare settings.
Even in areas where mask guidelines are now eased, we realize some families may find it difficult to decide what’s best for everyone.
Who still needs to wear masks?
Universal mask policies are still necessary in many parts of the country. Decisions about masks are made locally and are based on new guidance from the CDC. All three of these conditions should be met before a community relaxes rules on masking:
low COVID-19 case rates
low hospital admission rates
adequate hospital capacity
Make a mask plan that works best for your family
There may be times when your family is around groups of people who are and aren’t wearing masks. Having a family plan about masks will help your child or teen know what to expect.
Parents can help their kids understand that there are many reasons why adults and children may continue wearing face masks in public indoor settings. For example, students, teachers or school staff may choose to continue wearing face masks in school settings, even if not required. Children with special health care needs may rely on masks for protection, so they do not have to miss school or other activities — especially if others around them do not wear masks.
Masking also helps cocoon children who are too young to be vaccinated. Masks can also protect kids who have weakened immune systems that put them at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19. That’s why preschools and childcare centers may have different guidelines about mask wearing indoors. Be sure to check with officials in those places.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers these suggestions for families deciding who should wear a mask. To protect children who are too young to wear a mask (under age 2) or be vaccinated (kids under age 5), the rest of your household may consider wearing masks when in public settings. Masks also are encouraged to be worn if:
your child or teen is immunocompromised and may not have a protective immune response to the COVID-19 vaccine, or is at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness
your child or teen is not yet immunized
other members of the family are at higher risk of severe disease or are not immunized or
the community has “high” COVID-19 transmission
Family members who live in the same household do not need to wear masks when they are alone together. But if you are vaccinated and your children are not, you can choose to model mask-wearing behavior in support of your children when you are all out together. For example, everyone can wear masks for a trip to the grocery store.
The pandemic continues to impact families in many different ways. As a parent, model empathy toward others. Discourage bullying of children who choose to wear a mask to protect themselves and their family even if they are not required.
Pediatricians strongly recommend every eligible child receive the vaccine. New data may suggest waning efficacy of the vaccine in preventing mild infection from the omicron variant in children ages 5 to 11. However, the vaccine remains effective in protecting children from severe illness and hospitalization. And without the added layer of protection from the COVID vaccine for kids under age 5, masks are still an important way to protect our loved ones.
Have questions about our mask policy or how to approach masking with your family? Give the providers at Kids First Pediatrics a call. Raleigh: 919-250-3478, Clayton: 919-26701499.
Kids First Pediatrics of Raleigh offers COVID-19 vaccinations every 3 weeks on Saturday at the Raleigh location. Please call us (919-250-3478 ) to schedule appointments. Vaccinations are for current Kids First patients only.
*This article is informational but is not a substitute for medical attention or information from your provider.
Yvonne A. Maldonado, MD, FAAP
Yvonne A. Maldonado, MD, FAAP, is Professor and Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California. She is also the Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Diversity at the Stanford School of Medicine. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic she has over 10 clinical, epidemiology and laboratory-based studies in this area and is involved in epidemiologic modeling at the university, state and national level. She is the Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases. Dr. Maldonado has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals and is co-editor of the textbooks “Remington and Klein Infectious Diseases of the Fetus and Newborn Infant” and “Report of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases (Red Book).”