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Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital infectious disease physician explains why universal face coverings in the classroom is critical

Diverse set of child portrait avatars wearing face masks.

In the past week, the number of COVID-19 cases across Michigan have increased 37-percent. Dr. Rosemary Olivero, a pediatric infectious disease physician at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids, said past surges tell us the percentage will increase week after week.

“We could see — especially our unvaccinated young children less than 12 years of age — we could see far more cases of COVID-19,” Olivero said.

She explained that the benefits of a universal mask mandate in Pre-K through 6th-grade classrooms include reducing the likelihood of inhaling the novel coronavirus and protecting others.

“Really, the virtue comes in protecting everybody around you in case you are coming into a room harboring COVID-19,” Olivero said.

The mask will capture the vast majority of infected respiratory droplets, limiting spread throughout the classroom, said Olivero.

Factor in the extremely contagious delta variant and it’s an effective tool for protecting an unvaccinated population, she said.

“If left to individual choice on whether or not to wear a mask in the classroom, you may be able to protect yourself some by wearing your mask yourself, but really the benefit comes if you can have all of these folks who could have asymptomatic shedding of the virus and protect everybody in that indoor setting.”