The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending all children in grades K through 12 wear a mask indoors at school, regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not.

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Several weeks ago Gov. Phil Murphy announced masking will not be required for students and teachers in the fall, and he has not announced a change in that policy following the CDC recommendation on Tuesday, but the New Jersey Health Department’s top doctor supports mask wearing in school.

Dr. Ed Lifshitz, the director of communicable disease services for the New Jersey Health Department, said while it is true COVID infections in children are usually far less serious than in adults, kids can and do sometimes get sick.

He said requiring masks in class makes sense because we don’t want them to get ill, “and because also we are concerned that they can pass that illness on to others."

He said while kids in the 12 to 15 age group can now get the COVID vaccine, they and other teens may not be getting vaccinated.

“That group in general feels invulnerable, but in particular they know when they get ill they now they probably won’t get as ill as others, and they do worry about side effects and other things related to the vaccine,” he said.

Dr. Lifshitz noted when someone gets hospitalized or dies from COVID it’s important to remember they got infected by somebody else.

“And that person had no intention of infecting them and they themselves may not have been very ill to have passed it along, or they probably wouldn’t have gone to see them in the first place,” he said.

He pointed out we still don’t have a clear idea how common it is for children to get COVID because many are asymptomatic and most of them have never been tested. But when you protect them by having them wear a mask, “you also protect the other members of your community, the much more vulnerable members of the community, and that’s extremely important.”

According to healthychildren.org, which is sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, face coverings are especially important for children under the age of 12 because they are not eligible to get a COVID vaccine yet.

On the healthychildren.org website they point out several mask myths continue to circulate but parents should remember:

• Face masks made from breathable material will not block a child from getting oxygen and the vast majority of kids can wear masks for an extended period of time safely.

• Wearing a face mask does not affect the child’s lung development

• Face masks do not increase exposure to germs which would increase the chance of a child becoming sick, in fact the opposite is true.

• Worn correctly face masks can reduce the transmission of COVID-19

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