Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce says he wants the upcoming school year to be as normal as possible. If he’s serious, he needs to have a chat with his province’s new Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore.
That’s because Ontario’s health officer has a peculiar understanding of what “normal” looks like. His predecessor, Dr. David Williams, was cautious, but Moore qualifies as uber-cautious.
During a recent interview with CTV News, Moore suggested that students might still need to wear masks this fall. Interestingly, it wasn’t so much because of concerns about COVID-19, but about all the “other viruses” that students might catch at school.
Specifically, he’s concerned about respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). According to Moore, RSV mimics COVID symptoms and could be a problem since students were largely not exposed to it last year because of all the masking and distancing measures that were in place.
Before any parents get too worried about RSV, they might want to look it up first. If they do, they will be a whole lot less concerned.
“Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tract. It’s so common that most children have been infected by age 2. … In adults and older, healthy children, RSV symptoms are mild and typically mimic the common cold,” states the Mayo Clinic.
To put it bluntly, if we’re going to force kids to wear masks because of concerns about RSV, they will wear masks forever. RSV isn’t going away anytime soon. Neither is the common cold, and neither is COVID for that matter.
This is the precautionary principle run amok. While it made sense to put restrictions in place when COVID-19 was an unknown virus, we’re in a very different situation now. Effective vaccines are available and the vast majority of people, including most teenagers, are choosing to get vaccinated.
If we truly believe that these vaccines work, let’s start acting like it and get rid of masks.
Those who support mandatory masks typically argue that it’s only a minor inconvenience that helps keep people safe. The reality is that for some people, the inconvenience is far from minor.
For example, think of students with hearing disabilities. Many of these students rely on lip-reading in order to understand their teachers and classmates. Masks create a nightmarish situation for these students since they have lost the ability to communicate. Sadly, their concerns get lost in the chorus of fear about COVID.
Masks can also be problematic for students who don’t have hearing difficulties. Being able to read facial expressions is part of normal human interaction. Students have missed this important part of interaction for more than a year. The last thing they need is another year of mask-wearing.
In addition, we are kidding ourselves if we think that masks are an effective way, at this stage, of protecting children from COVID. Younger students often have difficulty putting the masks on and keep touching their faces to adjust them. Obviously, this defeats the purpose of making children wear masks.
As for older students, many of them rip the masks off the second no one is looking or once they step off school property. When not in school, they’re going to hang out with their friends—and most of them won’t be wearing masks.
We have now reached the point in this pandemic where we need to put our foot down on rules that are more theatrical than anything else. For example, we know that the risk of transmitting COVID by touching surfaces is very low. So why are we still insisting that everyone sanitize their hands every five minutes?
The key to ending this pandemic is widespread vaccination. The good news is that all provinces and territories are well on the way to achieving this goal. It’s entirely possible that nearly 80 percent of the eligible population will be fully vaccinated by the fall. The bad news is that some politicians and public health officials are still too cautious to drop existing public health restrictions of masking and social distancing.
We’ve survived this pandemic, but at great cost to our school-aged young people. Instead of burdening them with more unreasonable rules, let’s allow them to have a normal school year beginning this fall. This means no masks in the classroom.
It’s time for us to stop living in fear and to just start living.
Michael Zwaagstra is a public high school teacher, a senior fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, and author of A Sage on the Stage: Common Sense Reflections on Teaching and Learning.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.