Officials urge mask-wearing as ‘triple disease’ ramps up: What parents should know


Officials urge mask-wearing as 'triple disease' ramps up: What parents should know

In addition, COVID-19 cases and deaths increased by 50% in the past week, despite the rate having been flat for a long time previously, according to the CDC.

PHOTO: Students wearing face masks arrive with their parents on the first day of class of the 2021-22 school year at Baldwin Park Elementary School in Orlando, FL.

SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images, FILE

Students wearing face masks arrive with their parents on the first day of class of the 2021-22 school year at Baldwin Park Elementary School, Orlando, FL.

With the continued surge, health officials are strongly recommending wearing a face mask in crowded indoor spaces to avoid spreading and contaging the virus.

The CDC still recommends that children and adults wear masks on public transportation, including trains, planes, and buses.

Good Morning America spoke to Dr. Elizabeth Murray, mother of two and pediatric emergency medicine physician at Golisano Children’s Hospital in Rochester, New York, to answer parents’ questions about re-wearing face masks.

1. When and where should children wear face masks?

According to Murray, who is also a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, both children and adults should wear face masks in crowded indoor spaces whenever possible.

In the absence of mask requirements, Murray said, families must make the best decisions for themselves, knowing that every family and every individual child is unique.

“It would be so awesome and so easy if we could just say, ‘You always do this’ or ‘You never do this,’ and at this point it really isn’t,” she said. “But if we’re going on holiday and want to make sure we’re healthy to see our families, now is the time to really take those precautions.”

Citing the example of her own family, Murray noted that at age 13, her eldest daughter can decide for herself where and when a mask would help.

“She’s capable of making decisions at her age like, ‘I’m in a big group and working closely with a group of people, so now’s a good time for me to wear a mask’ as opposed to ‘me sitting in a study hall with three other students and we’re all separate from each other so I probably won’t need to wear a mask at this point,” Murray said. “She’s also very active in a lot of extracurricular activities that are really important to her, so she feels more comfortable wearing a mask during school or large group activities because she wants to make sure she stays healthy so she sticks to it can attend cross-country meets and attend their school play and things like that.”

On the other hand, Murray said her 6-year-old daughter struggled with wearing a face mask to school where it wasn’t required.

“We found this [wearing a mask] really isn’t something we could do with her because nobody else is doing it,” Murray said. “So we focus on other things for her, like making sure she washes her hands really well. Any sign of illness, we make sure to keep it at home so it doesn’t spread disease. And we do outdoor activities or other things with smaller groups of people where she doesn’t have as much exposure.”

2. Has wearing face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic now caused the rise of the disease?

Murray says children’s immune systems have not been permanently damaged by wearing masks during the pandemic.

“The mask just helps reduce the transmission of many common diseases,” Murray said. “Now that people aren’t wearing masks, now that schools are back in an in-person setting, and now that it’s fall and winter when we’re seeing some of those germs popping up, it makes sense that it’s all going back is.”

She continued, “We’ve had years where kids just didn’t see as many illnesses, and now everyone’s getting sick because all the germs are back at once.”

3. What kind of face masks should children wear?

Murray recommends children wear “quality” masks that they will be comfortable in and will wear.

“There are different styles that can work equally well, so it’s important to really make sure you have a mask that your child likes and fits their face comfortably,” she said. “Sometimes it’s difficult to find smaller masks, but there are good resources out there.”

Experts say it’s okay for kids to use clips or straps to relieve pressure on their ears when wearing a mask.

One technique to check the quality of your child’s mask is to hold the mask up to the sun. If you can see light through the mask while holding it tight, it’s not thick enough.

4. From what age can a child wear a face mask?

5. Do adults also have to wear face masks?

Yes, adults are also advised to wear face masks in crowded indoor spaces. Murray said it’s especially important that parents and carers wear masks to make a mark for their children.

6. What else can parents do to protect their children from flu, RSV and COVID-19?

Murray said it’s crucial that children and adults are up to date with their vaccinations.

Children as young as 6 months are eligible for a flu vaccine, as well as a COVID-19 vaccine, with “rare exceptions,” according to the CDC. Both vaccinations are free of charge and available in local doctor’s surgeries and pharmacies.

PHOTO:FILE - A boy receives a Covid-19 vaccine at an LA Care Health Plan Vaccine Clinic at Los Angeles Mission College in the Sylmar neighborhood of Los Angeles, January 19, 2022.

Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

A boy receives a Covid-19 vaccine at an LA Care Health Plan Vaccine Clinic at Los Angeles Mission College in the Sylmar neighborhood of Los Angeles January 19, 2022.

Murray said she also encourages her patients and others to stay home when they are sick and keep their children away from school and activities if they are showing symptoms of illness.

“I think there’s a lot of pressure on people to go back to work and all that stuff, but we still really need to make sure that regardless of what they’re sick with, people have to stay home,” she said.

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