Masks and Mandates

Members of an anti-mask social media group have been attending and protesting at school board meetings and public spaces in many Connecticut towns.  Movement proponents argue that children should not be required to wear masks in schools because they feel that masks are unconstitutional, pose a health threat, and are ineffective against the spread of COVID 19.  The Hartford Courant, which has covered these meetings, states there is not sufficient evidence to support the movement’s claims.

Here is background addressing the three primary arguments most frequently used by this movement:

Are Mask Mandates Constitutional?

Simply put, yes. The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution states that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  This includes the states ability to respond to a public health emergency and the protection of the general public welfare.  In 1905 the Supreme Court upheld a smallpox vaccine mandate in the case, Jacobson v Massachusetts.  There is no reason to think that this precedent would not apply to masks as well as illustrated by Circuit Court Judge John Kastrenakes writing on the ruling: “In every well-ordered society charged with the duty of conserving the safety of its members the rights of the individual in respect of his liberty may at times, under the pressure of great dangers, be subjected to such restraint, to be enforced by reasonable regulations, as the safety of the general public may demand.” 

For information check out the State of Connecticut Guidance for Covid-19.

Do Masks Pose Any Health Risk?

In children of good health, medical or cloth masks pose no danger.  The Centers for Disease Control/CDC recommends children over 2 years old wear masks in public settings, although the World Health Organization/WHO recommends the age start at 5 years old.  In Hamden and throughout Connecticut, children two years and up are expected to wear a mask unless it conflicts with a health condition, developmental disorder, or other physical challenges.  In these cases it is recommended that parents and caregivers consult with their medical provider.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Guidance for Wearing Masks            

World Health Organization: Children and Masks

Are Masks Effective?

The PNAS, Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, published a robust study synthesizing the literature on this subject earlier this year on “An Evidence Review of Face Masks Against Covid-19.”   They found that cloth face masks obstruct particles of the necessary size, meaning that it blocks the virus from being transmitted through the mask.  Keep in mind that viruses are roughly one thousand times bigger than atoms and molecules like the oxygen and carbon dioxide that we breath and exhale through our masks.  Non-medical masks have been very effective in reducing the transmission of respiratory viruses.  Rates of transmission are much lower in areas where mask usage is widespread or required.  The economic analysis even suggests that mask mandates could add 1 trillion dollars to United States GDP. 

All in all, face masks are a valuable part of our efforts to reduce the virus’s spread and should be used in conjunction with our other methods such as testing, tracing, quarantining, handwashing and social distancing.  Not all masks are created equal; solid choices for face coverings would be surgical masks, cloth masks that fit snugly around the nose and mouth, masks with two or three layers or masks with inner filter pockets.