Oregon is lifting its mask mandate for indoor public places today, meaning that public schools no longer require the wearing of masks. Uncomfortable with the change, dozens of students in Portland walked out of class in protest. While it was a small number of students who joined the protest, it is unclear how many students oppose the removal of the mandate.
Several of the protesting students were interviewed by local reporters. One student, who was also a swim instructor, said that “telling people to take off their masks is really selfish to people who don’t have that option”, referring to the fact that she can’t wear a mask when swimming. However, she mentioned that she wears a face shield.
Other students showed concern that lifting the mandates would cause a spike in COVID-19 cases. “I feel very strongly that there are people in our community that’ll be heavily impacted by lifting the mask mandate”, another student told reporters.
While it is not clear what will happen after the mandate is lifted and students begin taking their masks off, it seems unlikely that there will be a significant uptick in COVID-19 transmission, based on data. States with and without mask mandates showed very little variance in transmission rates.
First, let's compare how they did on infections during Omicron surge
Strikingly similar (see graph)
Florida peaked earlier, California a bit later
Cumulatively, they had nearly identical infection rates
About 9.50% of Floridians got infected while 9.54% of Californians did pic.twitter.com/ITfO0b4btD
— Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH (@ashishkjha) February 18, 2022
This graph compares California, a state that just recently lifted mask mandates, with Florida, a state with no mask mandate. On a per 100,000 person basis, the two states show very little variation in regard to case rates. Data from schools with and without mask mandates in place also show similar patterns. In general, there doesn’t seem to be any significant difference between schools that require masks and those who don’t when it comes to COVID-19 transmission. It has been long established that children are at a low risk from COVID-19, as they are more likely to die of the flu according to the CDC.
Some experts believe that two years of mask-wearing and restrictions may cause (or already may have caused) adverse psychological impacts on some people, especially young children. Many have suggested that forcing children to wear face coverings could have an adverse physical and psychological impacts, citing the importance of nonverbal communication and reading facial cues for young children.