As the school year kicks off and the delta variant of COVID-19 continues to be in the news, we are hearing from patients, parents and community members about wearing masks and vaccinations.
Grand Rapids Allergy has a straightforward position on masks: we support the CDC guidance on masking indoors in areas of substantial and high transmission to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
We all want to keep kids safe and learning. Masking is one of the best ways to prevent outbreaks and maintain in-person learning. We also continue to encourage vaccination for those who are eligible.
GRA will not be writing mask exemption notes for school for anyone other than those with a severe physical disability which would make it impossible for the individual to be masked (unable to help themselves or can’t remove the mask on their own). We are happy to schedule an appointment to discuss masking concerns, focusing on optimal management of asthma and allergy symptoms to allow for consistent mask use.
CDC is recommending universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status. Since children under 12 are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, CDC recommends they also wear a mask outdoors when in crowded settings and social distancing is not possible. CDC recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students’ desks in classrooms. When combined with wearing face masks, this should help reduce any spread of COVID-19.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) recommends that people with asthma try to find a face mask that is comfortable and breathable. They have also released a COVID-19 and Asthma Toolkit for Schools. People with asthma can wear masks and it does not impact their oxygen levels. Data from a study presented at the 2021 American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) meeting found that wearing a face mask does not affect oxygen saturation levels, whether the wearer has asthma or not. Oxygen saturation levels among study participants were between 93-100%, with an average of 98% for people with asthma. Normal oxygen saturation is between 96-98%.
We recognize that for many people, masks are inconvenient and not always comfortable. Try on a variety of masks, materials and styles to see what is comfortable for you and your family. Face masks made from 100% cotton T-shirts or fabric maybe more comfortable than other materials. Clear masks or cloth masks with a clear plastic panel are an alternative type of mask for people who interact with young children or students learning to read, or people with disabilities. If you have a mask with a vent or valve, check the inside of the mask. If you see fabric inside that covers the valve or vent, then the mask is OK to wear. If you see the vent or valve from the inside of the mask, you should not wear the mask because droplets from your mouth and nose can pass through the valve as you exhale. For kids to be compliant, it may be helpful to involve them in choosing their masks and let them practice wearing them at home.
The CDC recommends:
Regarding face shields: A face shield is primarily used for eye protection for the person wearing it. CDC says there is currently not enough evidence to support the effectiveness of face shields for protection from or transmission of COVID-19 respiratory droplets. Therefore, CDC does not currently recommend use of face shields as a substitute for masks.
We continue to require masks in our facility. This is based on CDC Guidance for Healthcare.