Hospital leaders: Masks are safest way for kids to return to school during COVID-19 surge

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Face masks have become a point of contention and confusion for thousands of Mississippi parents as school districts struggle with whether to follow scientists or angry parents. The physician who leads Mississippi’s largest hospital said Wednesday it’s simple – children need to wear masks. Period.

Dr. Louann Woodard, a physician and vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson spoke at press conference Wednesday and was asked about school masking.

Woodward said she and others want children to return to the classrooms for in-person learning, but that the rapidly spreading Delta variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus is making it too dangerous to do so without returning to mitigation measures from the past.

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“Until we get to a point when everybody is vaccinated, the best way for it to be safe is for them to wear a mask,” Woodward said.

UMMC Vice Chancellor for Clinical Affairs Dr. Alan Jones said that the hospital system, which includes the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital, had approximately 13 children hospitalized Wednesday with COVID-19.

Jones reiterated Woodward’s stance on the need for masks saying that masking along with ramping up more vaccinations would help slow down the tidal wave of coronavirus cases headed to the already full hospital.

‚ÄúThat is a scientific fact,” he said, not political spin.

Across Mississippi, several school districts have rapidly changed their policies after seeing COVID-19 outbreaks erupt just after the new school year began. Lamar County closed three of its schools within days after the new school year began due to outbreaks.

Meanwhile, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the Harrison County School District voted Wednesday night to reject a mask mandate for school children, the day before the new school year begins on Thursday.