Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education have recommended layered health and safety measures for the protection of all children and staff in Oregon schools. Layers of protection include vaccination, face coverings, distancing, improved indoor airflow and ventilation, and more. How much protection do these measures provide?
Every layer matters. Masks help students, educators, staff and volunteers from getting or spreading COVID-19.
How masks keep us safe from COVID-19
When we correctly wear multi-layer, well-fitting masks, we help prevent spreading COVID-19 virus through the air. Studies show a cloth mask can stop most large droplets and a large percent of small droplets from escaping and entering. This means masks provide protection to both the wearer and those around them.
Because it covers your mouth and nose, the mask also prevents you from touching your mouth and nose with unwashed hands, which is another way the virus can spread.
Wearing masks is safe and effective
We know people have concerns about the safety of wearing masks through the school day:
- Do they reduce oxygen intake? No. Masks are made from breathable materials that will not block the oxygen your child needs.
- Do they affect concentration? No. Masks will not affect your child’s ability to focus or learn in school. Most children age 2 or older can safely wear face masks for extended periods of time. This includes children with many medical conditions.
- Do they cause carbon dioxide poisoning? No. Carbon dioxide molecules are very tiny, even smaller than respiratory droplets. They cannot be trapped by breathable materials like cloth or disposable masks. Some health care workers and construction workers wear tight fitting masks all day as part of their jobs, without any harm.
- Will I get sick from mold or bacteria build-up in my mask? No, especially if you wash your mask regularly. Proper washing and drying of cloth masks can remove any viruses, bacteria or other residue that may build up on the mask.
- Will mask wearing negatively affect children’s mental health? No. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has studied the mental health impacts of COVID-19 on children and young adults aged 0 to 24. The CDC did not identify mask wearing as having mental health impacts, but encouraged wearing them instead.
How we can help make masks fun, easy and consistent to use
One of the most important ways we can help our children wear a mask is to wear them ourselves, and to do it correctly, covering both the nose and the mouth.
You can also make it fun: If you can make cloth masks yourself or if you know someone who can do it for you, have your children help choose the fabric. If you are buying masks, have them help pick out the mask they want to wear.
You can find more tips in this toolkit from the University of Rochester Medical Center.
The best protection: COVID-19 vaccines
All three COVID-19 vaccines are extremely effective in preventing severe COVID-19 infection leading to hospitalization. The Pfizer vaccine is available in two forms for children:
- Pediatric form for children ages 5 through 11
- Adult form for children ages 12 through 17
If you care for children aged 5 years or older, visit OHA’s Find a COVID-19 Vaccine in Oregon web page to schedule their vaccine appointment today.
Visit Get Vaccinated Oregon to find a vaccine provider near you.