Dr. Bob Responds to his opponent’s mask inquisition, “Leaders should know the science.”

Dr. Bob Lorinser advocates for masks and highly recommends them in Pre-K - 6th-grade classrooms, as these students are currently ineligible for vaccines. He has been proactive in supplying boards of education with accurate science and data to help them make their own community decisions. Dr. Bob is now deeply concerned about misinformation implied by his opponent regarding effective mitigation strategies.

The recent open letter to CDC Director Walensky by my opponent Jack Bergman and 32 other members of Congress bothers me. The letter questions effective COVID-19 mitigation strategies.


The answers to my opponent's questions are easy to find and scientifically sound, albeit incomplete since the science is developing and all the answers aren't "conclusive." Only those who signed the letter know their intentions, but I am concerned it wasn't about scientific inquiry. It appears its purpose was to discredit the CDC's efforts in keeping our children and those around them safe. This is dangerous. The people of the Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan deserve honesty and integrity. They deserve better.

I'm disappointed these legislators didn't use their resources and staff to become informed leaders on this topic before grandstanding. Like most medical professionals, I support science. I must make scientific analyses and inferences. I keep asking difficult, legitimate questions to advance the well-being of our district, including the science of school masking, but the legislators' letter was not at all constructive.


I'm happy to offer my expertise and provide answers to their probe.


 
What scientific evidence is the CDC relying on to recommend students wear masks?

Dr. Bob: Here's your answer. At the bottom of this article are 98 scientific references that are linked. In addition, there are eight studies in six states that show schools with universal masking policies had extremely low within-school transmission during the 2020-2021 school year (Utah, Missouri, Georgia, North Carolina, North Carolina, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Virginia).


The ABC Science Collaborative, developed by Duke University School of Medicine and supported with funds from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is trying to answer these critical questions. For now, it is reasonable to go with what we know—masking is safe and effective. In the U.K., masks are optional, but asymptomatic students get tested twice a week. Nationwide, the U.S. does not deploy either mitigation strategy.

 
Has the CDC identified conclusive data indicating school-aged children's potential for transmitting the COVID-19 virus and its variants?

Dr. Bob: Here's your answer. No data is conclusive. However, evidence suggests that when prevention strategies are layered and implemented with fidelity, transmission within schools and Early Childhood Education programs can be limited. With masking, the risk of transmission in schools is under 2%. The risk without masks is still being evaluated and is unknown.

 
What is the risk that vaccinated school staff contract a life-threatening case of COVID-19 when performing their duties absent restrictions?

Dr. Bob: The risk is minimal for the average school staff member but not for the elderly or people with medical conditions. He should have asked about the high-risk child in the classroom without the chance to be vaccinated. He should have asked about most parents who do not wish for their child to be infected. They want students protected in the classroom. He should have asked about the grandparents who have been infected from a school-associated transmission.


As the ABC Science Collaborative reported, schools that do not require masks will have more coronavirus transmission. While mortality from COVID-19 was only two per 100,000 school-age children as of April, there are more than 50 million public school children in the United States. Their ability to carry and transmit disease could still equate to many avoidable deaths in a year.

 
What are the developmental and educational impacts of requiring masks during in-person education for K-12 students? What conclusive studies analyzing these impacts have been conducted or are underway?

Dr. Bob: No learning loss attributed to mask-wearing has been documented. If there were, it would be trivial compared to getting sick and quarantining due to exposure, as reported by the ABC Science Collaborative. Mask wearing does not cause harm, and healthcare workers wear masks all day as a regular practice. In addition, there are no known and conclusive studies about the negative impacts of a child's speech and language development.

 
What metrics will be considered in the future for modifying the current guidance regarding mask-wearing by school children?

I talked about this extensively at the Marquette Area Public Schools Board of Education meeting. The decision regarding masks in school is up to the board of education, in partnership with the community. But the guidance to modify mask-wearing can be found here: "localities should monitor community transmission, vaccination coverage, screening testing, and occurrence of outbreaks to guide decisions on the level of layered prevention strategies."

 

The public health message needs to be clear and straightforward. It is difficult enough for parents and school boards to navigate the science and make informed and objective decisions. That is why public health experts should be included in decision-making. Our local schools should determine the level of risk to escalate or deescalate mitigation strategies after discussing the facts in consultation with students, parents, faculty, staff, public health experts, and others. Discounting any member of this team is not helpful.

We are public servants during a pandemic. We must be leaders. Right now, it's our responsibility to keep up with the science. My opponent's questions are not serious. They are rhetorical, the answers to which are readily available. Scientists must question science constantly, but this political tactic seemingly has more sinister intentions — to stoke public mistrust in health experts. It is yet another way to distract the people of the First District from the reality of the situation. We are still in a pandemic.

Bergman is correct in one thing. "Children have been dramatically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and they have missed out on key social developmental interactions over the past year… In-person education is essential to supporting children and families."


He does not need to sign a letter for a publicity stunt. Instead, a Congressman should lead by advocating for vaccines for all eligible people. He should promote recommended and scientifically supported mitigation strategies, and allow public health experts to take the lead in navigating us out of this challenging time. We will not accomplish anything if our leaders refuse to be part of the solution.

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