Ron DeSantis Hosted a Power-Packed Panel on Masking and Schools Yesterday. Here's How It Went.

Posted: Jul 27, 2021 5:45 PM
Ron DeSantis Hosted a Power-Packed Panel on Masking and Schools Yesterday. Here's How It Went.

Source: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hosted a power-packed roundtable discussion Monday in Tallahassee on the issue of whether schools should require students and teachers to wear masks during the upcoming academic year.

The roundtable - which included Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, professor of medicine at Stanford University and research associate at the National Bureau of Economics Research (NEBRH), Dr. Cody Meissner, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease and professor of pediatrics at the Tufts University School of Medicine, Dr. Mark McDonald, a clinical psychiatrist with specific expertise working with children with autism, trauma, obsessive-compulsive and bipolar disorders, Dr. David Withun, the Head of School of Jacksonville Classical Academy, Anita Whitby Davis, a concerned parent and mother of two sons who attend the Governors Charter in Tallahassee, and Everett Thompson, a rising senior and lacrosse player at Maclay in Tallahassee - comes a day after the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) revised its guidance on masking to recommend that everyone in K-12 schools wear a mask when indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

The experts DeSantis hosted, however, presented a different view of school masking than that of the powers-that-be. Bhattacharya pointed to the lack of significant disease spread among children as well as evidence from Sweden, which went an entire school year unmasked.

I don't think the Delta variant changes the calculus or the evidence in any fundamental way, governor. So if you look at the data from before the Delta variant, look at Sweden, for instance, that kept their schools open unmasked, no social distancing all year, the teachers themselves - and this is before the vaccine - were at lower risk of COVID deaths than the population at large, other workers in the population. And the kids themselves had zero deaths, I think ... The Delta variant is coming in a context where every teacher has had the opportunity to be vaccinated if they so choose. So they're protected against severe disease. The evidence continues to show that [kids] are not spreaders of the disease in an efficient way. And so, the mask themselves have a marginal, if any benefit marginal benefit in slowing the spread of the disease. And of course, masks do actually cause some harm to children developmentally. So I don't think that the calculus has changed at all. It's still the same. I think net, it's not a good idea to mask children.

The Stanford professor went on to add that, since the vast majority of those vulnerable to death have been protected by the vaccine, "the number of deaths have not risen proportionally" to cases of the more transmissible Delta variant.

Meissner lamented the difficulty of getting out "any opinion that doesn't follow the party line" before expressing frustration at the way 'cases' are still being counted.

There will be a small percent who are vaccinated appropriately, and who may turn out to be COVID positive with some symptoms such as a runny nose or a cough or sore throat. But remember, that's not the intention of why we vaccinate people. We vaccinate people to keep them alive, to keep them out of the hospital. An additional concern is that the way the CDC is defining a case, they are saying anyone who has a positive PCR assay is a case, and we don't do that for any other infectious disease, such as chicken pox or measles. If we were to look at a child who had chickenpox, we would see the characteristic rash of chickenpox, and everyone would agree that that child has chickenpox. Here, 80% of people who are PCR positive have absolutely no symptoms. So that's really not a definition of a case. It's really a distortion of the way we've always thought about a specific case of infectious disease.

McDonald, a clinical psychiatrist, unequivocally called masking children "child abuse."

Substantial evidence shows that children have been medically physically and psychologically harmed by mandatory mask mandates. I said this, and I maintain this position from last April of 2020. And I continue my position today. Unchanged. In fact, I even reinforced this position. I've seen hundreds of children in the last year come to my practice who are coughing, spitting, sick in the throat, streptococcal infections, conjunctivitis, impetigo, allergic reactions, panic attacks, all from masks ...

Withun told DeSantis about his school's 2020-21 "normal school year" without masks or "any massive outbreaks," while Davis and Thompson expressed their concerns about imposing masks on students during the upcoming year.

You can watch the entire 51-minute discussion below:

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