CHILDREN ARE AT NO RISK
So as everyone in New Jersey knows by now, Governor Murphy has issued Order 251 (1) which requires (caps always mine for emphasis) “All public, private, and parochial preschool programs and elementary and secondary schools, including charter and renaissance schools (collectively “school districts”), MUST maintain a policy regarding MANDATORY use of face masks by staff, students, and visitors in the indoor portion of the school district premises,” The order then goes on to carve out more than a half dozen exceptions to the rule, which in and of itself belies the stupidity and unscientific nature of the order. This order alludes to coronavirus metrics apparently so frightening and potentially dangerous that the State feels the “need” to order this mask mandate, which, under penalty of law, could cost you up to $1,000 and/or six months in county jail if you don't obey. But essentially what it says is “You MUST wear a mask, unless you CAN’T, then you DON’T have to. This is not science. Either this virus is so dangerous that we must all be FORCED, essentially at the end of a gun, to wear masks, or a person's asthma or claustrophobia or vigorous exercise (lots of heavy breathing there) somehow magically immunizes said person from either contracting or spreading the virus, which is so dangerous you must be forced, essentially at gunpoint, to wear a mask. You can’t have it both ways (unless you’re the government I guess). I have previously discussed this nonsensical, unscientific thinking when the State issued guidance for gym re-openings last August (2) in which Governor Murphy said “Individually partitioned showers or communal showers with installed barriers/partitions (at least 6 feet apart) ARE PERMITTED in gyms with POOLS (in accordance with the NJAC 8:26, Public Recreational Bathing). Showers are NOT OTHERWISE PERMITTED…Locker room use will be limited to hand washing and restroom use ONLY.” So the virus is so dangerous that showers CANNOT be used and I can't even change my shirt in the locker room, UNLESS there is a hole in the floor with water in it, THEN the showers can be open. I’m not quite sure what science there is to say that a water-filled hole in the floor protects against COVID, but I’d very much like to see it. Also, since “Locker room use will be limited to hand washing and restroom use ONLY.” I’m not sure where those using the showers are supposed to get dressed. Ah, details. While we’re at it, the rule doesn’t say an individual actually has to use the pool to then use the showers which are otherwise closed. It doesn’t even say the pool actually has to have water in it. It just says “…in gyms with pools…” So maybe even just an empty hole in the floor is enough to scare away coronavirus. I wonder how big this hole has to be? Would just a bucket of water suffice?And I’m still wondering how those who may use the shower will get dressed. Again, mysteries of the universe.
Anyway, while the stupidity of the State is always fodder for a good laugh (if you didn’t read my recent piece “THESE ARE THE PEOPLE RUNNING YOUR LIFE” in which I quote the State epidemiologist, you should), this situation with Order 251 is actually quite serious for many reasons. I recently received a correspondence from a local Board of Education in which the response to the question of how they will deal with a child who refuses to wear a mask was “A student who refuses to wear a mask will be sent home…Issues with parents related to NON-COMPLIANCE will be directed to the APPROPRIATE AUTHORITIES." This is most definitely not funny. Are the police going to show up at my door, handcuff me and arrest me if I refuse to force my second-grader to wear a mask? What if the "ISSUES" are not with me? What if I insist she wear a mask and she refuses, will they handcuff and arrest her? If words like “NON-COMPLIANCE” and “APPROPRIATE AUTHORITIES” from your local Board of Education don’t concern you, then you should just stop reading this now and go on your merry way.
But for those of you still with me, over the next week or so I will post, in several parts, the actual SCIENCE AND DATA showing why Order 251 is irrational, unscientific, unsupportable, and therefore quite illegitimate. I suggest you copy each part and send the entire document once completed to your local Board of Education, your town council, your mayor, and anyone else you can think of and INSIST they provide the actual SCIENCE AND DATA upon which this order has been made and is being enforced. Insist that they demand from the State the same. We have a right to see the data on which the government is basing such authoritarian decisions. I am, however, under no delusions that the information I provide will have any actual effect. As I will discuss in a later section, human beings are by our very nature, dumb, easily frightened, herd animals, and it is the rare individual who will actually stand up and be counted when it is needed most. This is why we all remember the kid standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square. Courage is actually quite rare. I have no confidence that any school board will stand up to protect the children of their community in the face of some possible sanction. Anyway, the Governor has stated they are relying on models that apparently forecast a significant increase in "cases" (although those models were not shared with the public as far as I can tell), and although those models may be somewhat accurate (what’s been going on in the southern part of the country may very well happen here in our normal seasonal viral increase), I will lay out in the coming days the evidence, the actual SCIENCE AND DATA we have, to show that this mask mandate is not only of little or no value, but has more of a chance of being injurious to our children than any “protection” it might provide . Let’s begin with the FACTS about children and COVID.
1. CHILDREN ARE AT NO RISK
According to the CDC (3), there have been a total of 385 American children between ages 0 and 17 who have died under the heading “All Deaths involving COVID-19” in the 18 months of this pandemic. This accounts for only 0.7% of "Deaths from All Causes" for children. This means that 99.3% of all deaths in children, (which totaled 54,062), were caused by something other than COVID. The CDC also reports (4) that some 54% of children hospitalized with COVID had at least one co-morbidity (the largest percentage of which was obesity at 34%, which should concern us all) So that’s 385 deaths out of a population of some 75,000,000 kids (5) over 18 months. That’s a population fatality rate of 0.0005% or five ten-thousandths of one percent. That is statistically ZERO. As it is irrefutably, absolutely, inarguably impossible to improve on a risk of ZERO, then by definition, NO mitigation strategy can improve your child’s chances of not dying from COVID. Again, the CDC lists (4) a total of 3,649 “Laboratory-Confirmed COVID-19-Associated Hospitalizations" in children 0-17 years of age. That equals a risk of hospitalization of 0.005% or five one-thousandths of one percent. Again that is effectively ZERO. While these CDC numbers may be slightly behind the up-to-the-minute accounting, they are not so far off that the risk percentages would change meaningfully.
As for those who “know” that kids are being “targeted” by the Delta variant and are therefore now in greater danger, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) jointly publish a summary of COVID data as it pertains to children (5). They report “…children were 0.00%-0.22% of all COVID-19 deaths, and 7 states reported zero child deaths” and “0.00%-0.03% of all child COVID-19 cases resulted in death”. Their hospitalization numbers, as opposed to the CDC's show some 18,000 cumulative child hospitalizations, which is a hospitalization rate of 0.02% or two one-hundredths of one percent. This discrepancy has to do with how different states count "children", and the CDC counting only "laboratory-confirmed" cases. But it is still just two one-hundredths of one percent and the fatality risk remains the same at 0.0005%. The AAP also shows that as of 8/19/21 children account for only 14.6% of total cases. This in comparison with four months ago (4/15/21), when children accounted for 13.6% of cases and 12.5% on 1/7/21. While this is an incremental increase in the percentage of hospitalizations, even Anthony Fauci has stressed that these are “relative” increases (as less older people end up in the hospital, the percentage of hospitalized that are kids goes up relative to the total). But currently, the hospitalization rate (percentage of children diagnosed with COVID who end up in the hospital) is 0.9%. That number on 4/15/21 was 0.8% and was 0.9% on 1/7/21. So there is no data to support a position that children are at more risk from Delta.
So to wrap up Part 1, the risk to children of death or serious interaction from COVID is infinitesimally small and therefore no mitigation strategy (including masks) can, by definition, provide to them any additional “protection”.
Next time: Part 2 – MASKS DON’T WORK