A recent editorial by the Akron Beacon Journal:

We don’t need a crystal ball to credibly predict schools with voluntary mask policies will be a virus-infested mess in a few weeks.

It’s already happening across America and in one Ohio district, which was forced to switch to remote learning when more than 100 students were reported absent due to COVID-19 cases and quarantine requirements. That district strongly recommends but does not require masks.

Now, we hope we’re wrong. But most local school boards are putting parents in an impossible situation by not requiring masks and removing many of the safeguards that kept masked children largely safe last year.

Remote learning is no longer an option for many districts, especially during quarantines. Hybrid schedules are gone. Social distancing will be tough with more kids attending. And kids under 12 can’t be vaccinated for now.

The number of COVID-19 patients in Akron hospitals again surpassed 100 Thursday for the first time since January as the deadly delta variant continues to spread. Ohio also reported 5,432 new cases, the most since Jan. 28.

Masks would reduce challenges for parents

Should parents send their unvaccinated children to in-person classes and risk exposure or keep them safe at home? How disruptive will likely cases and close contact quarantine requirements be to actually teaching children? How many parents will have to stay home with children who are told they can’t go to school for a week or longer?

Masks would greatly reduce all of those challenges.

More importantly, masks may save children’s lives or help avoid significant health problems from a highly contagious variant that is sickening far more young people than the original COVID-19 virus. Doctors also are encountering more serious cases in children than before, although deaths thankfully remain rare.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, as of Aug. 19, reported more than 4.59 million children had tested positive for COVID-19, including 180,000 cases in the prior week.

How school boards are risking the health of younger students

While a more permissive mask policy may work in schools serving vaccinated older students, it’s shocking to see board members willingly risk the health of younger students.

This is especially true in Revere, where numerous parents with medical backgrounds lobbied the board to make masks mandatory. Front-line doctors in the local battle against COVID shared their real experiences watching families say final goodbyes and coping with full appointment schedules of sick children.

Dr. Jeffrey Archinal, the parent of first and third graders at Revere, told board members: “We don’t have more space for sick kids. So if we’re going to keep school open, we have to lessen the amount of sick kids.”

The five board members ignored their pleas and voted unanimously to side with those who believe they have the freedom to spread a deadly virus without any consideration for others.

To be fair, Revere is hardly alone. Only Akron, Hudson, Twinsburg and Nordonia are listening to the scientific facts and requiring masks in local public schools.

Here are the consequences of not wearing masks

The consequences could be severe. With only a few schools back in session last week, Summit County Public Health was already reporting 70 students under quarantine and 27 positive cases.

If there’s one sliver of good news in all of this, parents can ask their children to wear masks, which will decrease their odds of getting sick and allow them to stay in school if they do have close contact. Whether kids will wear them is another matter.

With COVID negatively impacting children for a third consecutive school year, we would urge all local school boards to immediately make masks mandatory until this current crisis wanes.

Surely we all can agree children need to be in school and safe.

Masks can help achieve that goal.

— Akron Beacon Journal, Aug. 27