Twitter, while undergoing some unfortunate gyrations with its new owner, is still a space where I believe you can find like-minded people who care deeply about the health and wellbeing of children, youth, and school communities. I consider social media part of my school nursing practice, a place for education, advocacy, and interprofessional collaborations.
Jonathan Levy, ScD and Esther Choo, MD, MPH graciously invited me to contribute to an Op-Ed that was just published in TIME Magazine’s Ideas column. Our perspectives piece, through the lens of a school nurse, an environmental health researcher, and an emergency medicine physician, looks at the newly published New England Journal of Medicine study (NEJM) that reviewed the impact of lifting universal masking in Massachusetts schools during the winter of 2022. The findings reveal the disparities and health inequities that COVID laid bare. They were there all along, but under the glaring lights of a global pandemic, they can no longer be ignored.
The study has implications for this school year, which includes the strategic use of universal masking as we see a dramatic rise in respiratory illnesses, including flu, RSV and yes, COVID is still with us. We know that absenteeism is high due to illness of both students and school staff, yet there are few school districts that are implementing any mitigation strategies, let alone universal masking.
Here is an excerpt from our Op-Ed, which is linked in this blog post as well as the NEJM study by Cowger and colleagues.
An important insight from the study was that school districts that maintained required masking more often had school buildings in poor condition, crowded classrooms, and a higher proportion of individuals more vulnerable to harmful health outcomes, including those with disabilities, than the more affluent districts that lifted mask requirements.