Kids required to wear N95 respirators in Philadelphia schools despite CDC and FDA warnings
COVID insanity continues.
Kids in The School District of Philadelphia (SDP) will be required to wear N95 or KN95 respirators after returning to school from COVID-19 isolation, despite warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that these types of masks “aren’t designed for children” and “haven’t been tested for broad use in children.”
According to the SDP’s Student Mask Guidance for the 2022-2023 School Year (August Update), students are recommended to wear in the order of preference:
a 3 ply disposable surgical mask supplied by the District, with the addition of a cloth mask OR
a 3 ply disposable surgical mask OR
a well fitting KN95 or N95 mask
However, if a child contracts COVID-19 and is symptom-free after five days of isolation, he or she may return to school but must wear a “high-quality mask (N95 or KN95) for an additional 5 days and must eat in a designated area.”
Cloth masks may only be worn at SDP in conjunction with a surgical mask (double masking).
CDC Guidance on N95 Respirators
Parents and caregivers may have questions about NIOSH-approved respirators (such as N95s) for children. Although respirators may be available in smaller sizes, they are typically designed to be used by adults in workplaces, and therefore have not been tested for broad use in children. [CDC Webpage]
FDA General N95 Respirator Precautions
N95 respirators are not designed for children or people with facial hair. Because a proper fit cannot be achieved on children and people with facial hair, the N95 respirator may not provide full protection.
People with chronic respiratory, cardiac, or other medical conditions that make breathing difficult should check with their health care provider before using an N95 respirator because the N95 respirator can make it more difficult for the wearer to breathe.
Some models have exhalation valves that can make breathing out easier and help reduce heat build-up. Note that N95 respirators with exhalation valves should not be used when sterile conditions are needed.
All FDA-cleared N95 respirators are labeled as "single-use," disposable devices. If your respirator is damaged or soiled, or if breathing becomes difficult, you should remove the respirator, discard it properly, and replace it with a new one. To safely discard your N95 respirator, place it in a plastic bag and put it in the trash. Wash your hands after handling the used respirator.
Other SDP Mask Guidance
When required by SDP, students must wear a face mask at all times in hallways, classrooms, indoor public spaces, and other common indoor areas across District spaces.
Students should remain mindful not to unnecessarily touch masks except for removal for meals and breaks.
Masks should not be worn during water play activities that could get masks wet whether indoors or outdoors. Because masks should not be worn at these times, students should maintain appropriate physical distance.
Students are not required to wear face masks while participating in outdoor activities if a minimum of three feet of social distancing is maintained.
Students may remove face masks indoors when eating or drinking if seated three feet away from others.
When masks are removed, they must be placed below the chin, in a pocket, or on the lap. Masks should not be placed on tabletops or other communal surfaces.
Interestingly, the CDC’s recent guidance does away with physical distancing recommendations. SDP, however, says, “face masks do not replace the need to maintain social distancing.”
When Are Masks Required
Per Aug. 12 SDP update: “For the first 10 days of the new school year—from Aug. 29 through Sept. 9—all students and staff will be required to wear masks while in school, regardless of the COVID-19 Community Level. This is an extra precaution for everyone’s health and well-being since increased end-of-summer social gatherings may heighten the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Masking may then become optional under specific circumstances.”
In specific instances where universal masking may be required, regardless of the COVID-19 Community Level, including: classroom- or school-wide outbreak
Upon return from extended breaks and holidays when increased social gatherings may heighten the risk of exposure to COVID-19
Students and staff at PreK Head Start programs are still required to wear masks at all times, regardless of the Community Level
The SDP will require children and staff to eat and wait in “designated areas” if they recently recovered from COVID-19 or show symptoms of COVID-19 while at school.
Vaccination Discrimination at SDP
Even though the CDC now recommends that people be treated equally, regardless of their vaccination status, the SDP plans to discriminate against unvaccinated student athletes and performing arts students.
According to SDP’s General COVID-19 Protocol for the 2022-2023 School Year (July Update), "if school-wide or district-wide masking is required, vaccinated student athletes and performing art students will NOT have to mask while in active play/competition or performance. Unvaccinated student athletes and performing art students will be required to mask while in active play/competition or performance.
Not only does this contradict the CDC’s Aug. 11 guidance, forcing sweaty athletes to wear masks completely ignores the CDC’s long-standing recommendation that masks immediately be discarded if they get wet.
It is unclear whether the SDP will provide updated protocols that align with current CDC guidance.
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