Despite some of Europe’s strictest coronavirus measures — including two draconian lockdowns and a lengthy curfew — France doesn’t allow nursery school children to mask.
Given the complicated politics of mask mandates in the United States, Americans might be surprised to learn that, in French nursery schools serving children under six, children are not allowed to mask. No, it’s not that mask mandates are banned, but that masks themselves are prohibited.
Official French government guidance states that “pour les élèves des écoles maternelles, le port du masque est proscrit, indépendamment du niveau de mesures applicable.” In other words, regardless of the level of community transmission, children wearing masks at French nursery schools is “proscrit,” which means prohibited, outlawed, or banned.
In this tweet from a French education ministry account, you can see unmasked nursery school students sitting in front of masked primary school students.
France’s approach to masking is consistent with UNICEF and WHO guidance that children under six should never be required to mask.
Children aged 5 years and under should not be required to wear masks. This is based on the safety and overall interest of the child and the capacity to appropriately use a mask with minimal assistance.
In the U.S., however, the CDC recommends that children mask nearly everywhere — including child care facilities and nursery schools — from two years of age.
As vaccination rates continue to rise in states and cities across the country, Americans may want to reflect on whether or not it makes sense to continue mandating masks at child care facilities and nursery schools. Compliance is likely poor and children snack and nap unmasked — what’s the point?
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