The Biden administration needs to quickly address this toddler masking issue.
Head Start programs need to stop mandating masks.
While mask mandates have been lifted for most Americans — from toddlers at New York City child care centers to Americans flying the friendly skies — there is one population that is still required to mask up for hours every single day: toddlers at the nation’s Head Start programs, which are basically pre-schools for low-income children.
As toddlers and young children have unmasked nearly everywhere else, Head Start programs have continued to mandate masks and questions have been raised for months now about the rule. In the past, many justified the policy by arguing that toddlers couldn’t be vaccinated, but yesterday that changed.
Now that anxious parents have the option to vaccinate their toddlers, I would argue it is time for the the White House to press Health and Human Services to formally end the rule as quickly as possible. The New York Post provides an excellent summary of where things stand:
The Office of Head Start notified programs in February that officials would not evaluate compliance with the mask requirement during monitoring visits until further guidance is provided.
As of mid-June, the guidelines were still in flux. The federal agency did not respond to a request for a timeline to issue updated guidance.
“HHS’ Administration for Children and Families is reviewing the current CDC guidance regarding mask use and will issue updated guidance for Head Start programs,” said a spokesperson for the agency, a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services.
“Wearing a mask for children 2 and older continues to be a key strategy to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Head Start programs,” read the statement.
There are two reasons why this should happen quickly:
First, toddler masking is bad public health, as three UK public health scholars wrote in November 2021:
In summary, the benefits of masking pre-school children are unclear but are probably too small to make a major…