The Look in Brief

Williamson county pediatricians push for mask mandates in schools

By: - August 10, 2021 6:00 am
See nothing, hear nothing, say nothing: children will bear the brunt of the state's mishandling of the COVID crisis. (Photo illustration: John Partipilo)

(Photo illustration: John Partipilo)

As Williamson County parents, physicians urged school officials to prevent the possibility of “needless” deaths of children from COVID-19  by mandating masks.

On Monday, several physicians called on Williamson County Public School Board members, private school administrators and elected officials to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for all children returning to school among rising delta variant cases. Those guidelines call for all students ages 2 and older to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

“Hear our voices as the pediatricians taking care of these children in Williamson County, Davidson County, in our clinics, our hospitals and our ICUs. As you can see, we are scared of what the next few months will unfold,” said Dr. Vidya Bansal, a board-certified pediatrician. 

Tennessee currently ranks 49th for COVID-19 vaccinations and ranks 5th for the total number of child COVID-19 cases, according to American Academy of Pediatrics.

As of August 9, pediatric cases comprised about 20% of COVID cases in the state, with 389 new cases, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.  

Out of 555 children hospitalized, 12 children have died in Tennessee, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. This includes two Shelby County children in one weekend.

There were 6,704 child COVID-19 cases in the last 14 days.

These figures have blown away all preconceived notions of the pandemic that only elderly people were dying, said several physicians.

“We do not yet know how our children will handle the delta variant, but we do know that if all 40,000 students caught COVID this school year, it is estimated that 24 of them would die, and this estimation is based on the original strain,” said Dr. Jennifer Ker, a board-certified pediatrician. 

CDC guidelines now recommend that fully vaccinated people wear masks in public indoor settings, especially in densely populated locations, and recommend schools implement a universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. 

Several school systems across Tennessee have already started their fall semester, but few school systems have implemented mandatory mask requirements, including Shelby County Schools and Metro Nashville Public Schools.

Williamson County Public School officials have yet to mandate masks, despite ranking third for child COVID-19 cases, making the variant “more contagious than chicken pox,” said Bansal. 

Children under age 12 are not eligible for the vaccine, and without a mask mandate, the Tennessee Health Commissioner, Dr. Lisa Piercey, is predicting children’s hospitals will be full by the end of this week.  

Death and long-term health related issues are real threats to children, pediatricians stressed.

“Failure to listen to the physicians and nurses taking care of these COVID cases and failure to  recognize that COVID remains a threat in our schools when both are unmasked and not eligible for the vaccine is a willful act of harm to the children’s right to life,” said Bansal.

“Kids don’t die from wearing masks,” she added.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Dulce Torres Guzman
Dulce Torres Guzman

Dulce has written for the Nashville Scene and Crucero News. A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, she received the John Seigenthaler Award for Outstanding Graduate in Print Journalism in 2016. Torres Guzman is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She enjoys the outdoors and is passionate about preserving the environment and environmental issues.