Local pediatrician recommends mask requirements in schools

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58)-- Weeks away from starting the third school year to be affected by COVID-19, local school boards are still trying to figure out which precautions are necessary. 

Children may not get as sick with COVID-19 as we see in adults, but kids younger than 12 can't be vaccinated, making them one of the more vulnerable groups to the contagious virus. 

"No question, children can get seriously ill," Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin Dr. Ellen Wald said. "We've had 340 deaths and we've had 4,000 children with severe disease (in the United States), many of them who required admission into the Intensive Care Unit and had a really rough time."

Wald said there are two things parents and schools need to think about before sending kids back into the classroom this fall. 

"The best thing is to have everyone around them who can be vaccinated to be vaccinated," Wald said. "That's number one, and then number two is the use of masks."

Studies show kids who returned to in-person schooling in masks last year were healthier than those who didn't.

"I would feel very confident that if we mask our kids, then we will not see an increase in cases, because that's what's been demonstrated over and over again in the last year," Wald said. 

UW Health said if children are exposed to COVID-19 in a fully masked environment, there would be no need to quarantine. It also reduces the need for distancing in classrooms and on buses. 

With mask policies still up for debate among many school boards, Wald believes it would be a mistake to not require them.

"If we go in without masks, I can assure you there's going to be a lot of infection," Wald said. "Some of it will be COVID and some of it will be other respiratory viruses."

CBS 58 will continue to provide updates on which precautions school boards decide on.

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