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  • Bill Eling

COVID-19: Masks are terribly comfortable.

Why do we wear masks? Unfortunately, the zigs and zags of COVID 19 science has created a lot of sceptics who now see official explanations to be the functional equivalent of the Man in Black’s non sequiturs. But why should kids wear masks? We need answers.

Here is a link to the May 13, 2021 State of Washington Department of Health publication entitled “K-12 COVID-19 Requirements for Summer 2021 and the 2021-2022 School Year.” DOH 820-105. K-12 Schools Requirements 2021-2022 ( The “guidance provides feasible actions schools must take to reduce risks to students and staff from COVID-19 and allow schools to resume in-person instruction.” [emphasis added]. Note: the “feasible actions schools must take” do not eliminate risk, but “reduce”risk. What risk? How much? They don’t tell us. Answers. Please.

Even a non-scientist like me can get confused. Is it any wonder? From the Washington DOH publication linked above is the recommendations for physical distancing:

“In addition to the required mitigation measures above, physical distancing is recommended and schools must have a plan that factors in physical distancing in classrooms (3 feet physical distancing in classrooms and 6 feet elsewhere), to the greatest extent possible.”

I would like the Washington State Department of Health to unwrap this nugget on physical distancing. What do you mean by “to the greatest extent possible?” What is the scientific basis for this guidance on distancing? Are we to conclude that in classrooms, 3 foot distancing is safe but that outside of closed classrooms is unsafe or less safe than a classroom? How do you justify doubling the distance to 6 feet in spaces more open than a classroom? What sort of risk analysis did DOH complete to reach that conclusion? Is there a study? A cynic might believe that there is not a scientific reason but a political reason for this guidance (i.e., the parents are rebelling, we have to open schools and 6 foot distancing can’t occur because of the physical size of the classroom, so we need to fudge a little). What does that say about the rest of the guidance? Sure doesn’t inspire confidence.

So, what is the risk to students? How much is the risk reduced or “mitigated” and at what cost? With regard to staff, what if a significant portion of the staff is vaccinated? Does that alter the risk calculation? I’m no scientist, but these questions seem worthy of scientific inquiry. Are our public health officials interested? I would like to hear why.

Unfortunately, you cannot be assured that any of these requirements for the 2021-2022 school year are immutable. Apparently, these requirements are subject to change on short notice. From the DOH report: “ . . .DOH will periodically update this guidance to reflect currently accepted safety guidance. It is likely this document will be updated over the summer prior to the start of the school year.” [emphasis in the original]. Hopefully, accepted safety guidance will not change a day before the start of the new school year.

DOH 820-105 further references the “required mitigation measures” but also says “(s)ubstantive decisions with respect to implementation of these requirements are best made in coordination with the local school board and input from the local health jurisdictions.” What does DOH mean by a “substantive decision”? Isn’t “implementation” a procedural/process decision and not a substantive decision? What does DOH mean by “best made in coordination?” In the real world, what does this sentence even mean? I think for practical purposes it means that the Department of Health will forward all of the angry calls to the school board.

Go to the links in the document for a deeper dive.

The Department of Health needs to answer our questions. Do it in public. Preferably under oath.

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