Survey suggests significant number of Vancouver secondary students want mask mandates reinstated

It comes as researchers are raising concerns about the elimination of mandatory mask mandates and the rise of Long COVID in children and youths

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      A survey of Vancouver secondary students has shown that a high percentage of respondents plan to continue wearing masks when classes resume on Monday (March 28).

      The Griffins' Nest, a student publication at Eric Hamber secondary, asked students from grades 8 to 12 in the Vancouver School District to email their views about the end of the mandatory mask mandate.

      The publication reported that 68 of the 76 respondents plan to continue wearing masks when they return from Spring Break. Half of the respondents attended Eric Hamber.

      On March 10, B.C.'s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, announced that masks will become optional for students in K-12 classrooms after Spring Break.

      The student publication reported that 51 of the 76 respondents—67 percent—think that the mandatory mask mandate should be reinstated.

      According to The Griffins' Nest, dozens of students declared a desire to protect others by wearing masks, especially those at higher risk of complications from COVID-19.

      Physicians and Duke University researchers Danny Benjamin and Kanecia Zimmerman led a large study into the effectiveness of mandatory mask policies.
      Duke University

      Mandatory masking reduced spread in U.S. schools

      Meanwhile, a large U.S. study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, found that mandatory mask policies reduced in-school transmission of COVID-19 cases by 72 percent in comparison with mask-optional policies.

      Duke University researchers Kanecia Zimmerman and Danny Benjamin, who are both physicians, led the study, which examined 61 school districts in nine states. The combined student population exceeded 1.1 million.

      The study took place in the second half of 2021 during a surge of Delta variant cases. In the research sample, 46 districts had mandatory masking, six had optional masking policies, and nine had partial masking (where the policies either changed or only applied to certain grade levels).

      In the U.S. study, those with mandatory masking recorded 7.3 cases of in-school infections for every 100 community-acquired infections; optional masking resulted in 26.4 cases of in-school infection for every 100 community-acquired infections.

      Since this research was published, neither the Vancouver school board nor the B.C. School Trustees Association has called for the reinstatement of a provincial mask mandate in schools.

      As employers, school boards can impose their own mask mandates but to date, none has done this in B.C.

      This is a very high magnification micrograph of thrombatic microangiopathy, which occurs in the blood vessels of those infected by COVID-19.

      Aerosols spread the disease 

      The World Health Network (WHN) recently published new guidelines in a range of areas, including masks and schools. (The WHN is a global network with scientific advisory and advocacy teams that began as a people's task force in response to COVID-19.)

      "School guidelines must explicitly recognize that Covid-19 is an AIRBORNE virus and communicate proper precautions to the different stakeholders (including teachers, staff, parents and children)," the WHN states. "It is spread by inhaling AEROSOLS containing viral particles, which are exhaled by others.

      "Keeping hands and high-touch surfaces clean is basic hygiene for all situations, but excessive use of disinfectants may be harmful, and do little to contain the spread of COVID-19 without airborne precautions in place as well."

      It's widely believed that COVID-19 is not nearly as dangerous for young people as for those who are elderly.

      However, research from the U.K. has suggested that perhaps 10 percent of children and youths are susceptible to Long COVID should they become infected.

      "The hypothesis that is mostly talked about currently is inflammatory changes to small blood vessels that then will lead to organ dysfunction," Dresden University of Technology pediatrician Jakob Armann told the BBC. "But there is no reliable data in kids at the moment that proves this."

      Armann has collected blood samples from secondary school children as part of his research into Long COVID.

      The link between COVID-19 and blood-vessel damage in children has been known since 2020.

      That year, a study by researchers at Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania noted that kids had "elevated levels of a biomarker related to blood vessel damage" even if they had minimal or no symptoms of the disease.

      "They also found that a high proportion of children with SARS-CoV-2 infection met clinical and diagnostic criteria for thrombotic microangiopathy (TMA)," the hospital stated. "TMA is a syndrome that involves clotting in the small blood vessels and has been identified as a potential cause for severe manifestations of COVID-19 in adults."

      The research was published in Blood Advances. It had a sample size of 50 pediatric patients with acute SARS-CoV-2 infection, including 21 with minimal disease and 11 with severe COVID-19. 

      On March 25, a public school teacher and the president of the Brantford & District Labour Council, Cory Judson, went public with his bout with Long COVID.

      Judson tweeted that he did this because every time he hears that "COVID is only mild", he considers what he's living with and "how there must be others going through the same thing".

      "I am hoping for some answers but also that others know that they are not alone," Judson declared.