GOP lawmakers are furious that kids are wearing masks to curb COVID-19

515

Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) falsely claimed these masks are 'useless.'

Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) and several of his fellow congressional Republicans are very upset that kids are being encouraged to wear face masks to curb the spread of the coronavirus. But actual medical experts say they are vital to keeping families safe.

"Forcing children to wear masks does not make any sense. The CDC should follow the science and not politics," Smith tweeted on Monday. He shared a video of a Friday appearance on a right-wing outlet in which he made similar false claims.

"It's unacceptable that the CDC requires kids to wear masks, whenever kids are not nearly affected like everyone else with COVID," he told Newsmax. "People's [sic] being vaccinated. The masks on kids are useless and they should be taken down and CDC should follow the science and make sure that that happens."

Congressional Republicans have repeatedly used the phrase "follow the science" as an argument to demand an immediate return to only in-person learning in schools, falsely suggesting that COVID-19 never spreads in education settings.

Last Thursday, Smith and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) released a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — signed by 28 of their congressional Republican colleagues — questioning why the agency recommended face masks for kids aged two and noting that some studies have shown "lower likelihood of young children to contract and spread COVID-19." The signers are Sens. Rand Paul (KY) and Ted Cruz (TX), as well as Reps. Andy Biggs (AZ), Madison Cawthorn (NC), Louie Gohmert (TX), and Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA).

But contrary to Smith's suggestion, kids can and do contract COVID-19, spread it to their families, and die from the disease.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, cases have recently spiked among children: Last week more than 88,000 of the nation's new coronavirus cases (more than 20%) were children — the highest percentage since the pandemic began.

"We've certainly have been seeing far more COVID in children lately," Dr. Marisa Louie, medical director for children's emergency services at Michigan Medicine told a Detroit television station on Friday, noting the dominance of a variant that is both more contagious and seemingly causes more kids to be symptomatic.

Michigan saw its highest ever numbers for kids hospitalized with the virus last week.

With vaccines currently only available to those 16 and older, doctors are recommending continued mask use as the best way for kids to avoid getting and spreading the coronavirus.

"We know that wearing a mask significantly reduces the spread of infection and should be part of the comprehensive strategy to reduce COVID-19—including for children age 2 and up," Dr. Matthew Hornik, president of the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, wrote earlier this month. "Use of masks does not restrict oxygen in the lungs even in children, it is recommended to wear a mask with layers to filter droplets effectively."

The CDC's guidance says that mask-wearing is helpful for stopping the spread of COVID-19 in children. "CDC recognizes that wearing masks may not be possible in every situation or for some people," they wrote in September. "Correct and consistent use of masks may be challenging for some children, such as children with certain disabilities, including cognitive, intellectual, developmental, sensory and behavioral disorders."

Many of the lawmakers who signed the letter are also among the most vocal critics of face masks for adults as well.

Biggs has falsely claimed that masks do not help curtain the spread of the coronavirus — even going so far as to post a news article on his House website titled "GOP congressman falsely claims face masks don't help in reducing spread of COVID-19."

Biggs and Greene were among those who refused to wear masks in a safe room during the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

Though public health experts have urged vaccinated Americans to continue to wear masks to avoid rare cases of virus transmittal to or by those who have been inoculated, Paul said Wednesday that President Joe Biden should "go on national TV, take his mask off and burn it."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.