Lexington health experts, CDC strongly recommend face coverings in schools

AP Poll Virus Outbreak Schools
Posted at 2:18 PM, Jul 27, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Lexington pediatrician Dr. Beth Hawse says there aren’t nearly enough people who’ve been vaccinated in the 12-17 age group to even consider herd immunity for them.

“I have the numbers here; 39 percent of 16-17-year-olds were vaccinated, and only 27 percent between 12-15-year-olds,” Hawse said from her office on Tuesday. “Unless those numbers get to at least 50 percent, if not more than you’re just going to continue to see the spread,” she continued.

Hawse is aware that the Fayette County school board is debating whether to require masks in school this fall, and she said that because of those low numbers. Because students under the age of 12 aren’t yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, the decision should be a no-brainer.

“I go to stores and see 7 or 8-year-olds running around without a mask, and that’s not safe,” she said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced its recommendation that all students in grades K-12 wear a face-covering in school, and the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department supports CDC recommendations. So now it’ll be decision time for the school district. New superintendent, Dr. Demetrus Liggins, said on Monday that he strongly favors in-person instruction but will listen to the health experts on all matters related to the spread of the virus.

“If you’re under the age of 12, nothing has changed from a year ago for you,” Dr. Hawse stated. “You’re likely more at risk now just because there are vaccinated adults. So (COVID) is preferentially going to find a host in you if you’re 2-11-years-old,” she continued.

Those who do not favor face coverings for students will argue that only a small percentage of kids contract the virus, and an even smaller percentage require medical attention beyond an initial diagnosis. But most doctors, like Hawse, aren’t interested in playing the odds when lives are potentially at stake.

“If I said one percent of kids were going to die from meningitis, that is not a small number. That is something we vaccinate for. One percent is a lot especially when it’s something that’s preventable,” she said.