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Ask A Doctor: Pediatrician Says Students Should Go Back To School, Wear Masks

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Dr. Ryan Gottfredson spoke with KSL TV about what the upcoming school year will look like. He said he agrees that students need to get back into the classrooms, and that masks will be an important part of that process.

School districts across the state have been finalizing their plans for reopening this fall, with the majority of them planning to have students back in class. Other options will be available, as well, including options for parents who want to keep their children home.

Many Utah parents are wondering what this will mean amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that the benefits of having students in class outweigh the risks presented by the spread of the coronavirus.

“The AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school,” according to the group’s website.

Gottfredson, with Utah Valley Pediatrics, said he agrees.

“I stand 100% behind that recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics,” he said. “It’s a tough thing to try to balance the public health concerns with the known risks and harms to children by not being able to go to school.”

“Of course, accommodations must be made because of the pandemic,” he added.

Gov. Gary Herbert has mandated that masks be worn inside all K-12 schools, and Gottfredson said masks, plus social distancing, are both important factors in preventing the transmission of the virus.

He said if physical distancing is possible, then masks become less necessary. However, distancing currently isn’t feasible for most Utah classrooms, so those masks become more crucial to slowing the spread of COVID-19.

“Going back to school, it’s going to be hard to keep kids from being close together,” he said. “So that’s why masks are going to be important.”

Gottfredson said there are not detrimental effects to wearing masks throughout the day, but he said it can pose a challenge for students to keep them on – especially younger kids.

“There are some kids who just have a real hard time wearing the face masks,” he said, adding that it will be up to parents, health care workers and teachers to help children adjust to keeping the masks on while indoors.

He said schools can implement strategies such as allowing students to go outside and take the masks off throughout the day.

Gottfredson said the “silver lining” data so far is showing that the coronavirus isn’t transmitting as effectively between children as initially thought.

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