I am deeply troubled by Jeffco Public Health Director Dr. Dawn Comstock’s latest public health order, mandating the masking of our children when they are in school.
I have also noted the widely varying levels of protection against aerosols that are provided by cloth, surgical, and N95 masks. As a practical matter, only the latter provides a meaningful level of protection — assuming the mask is fitted correctly for six hours, which in the case of children many are not.
Dr. Comstock has not provided any analysis of the reduction of COVID infection risk in schools that has already been provided by vaccination, ventilation, and filtration. Nor has she provided any analysis of the incremental benefits of masking children for six hours, compared to the vastly higher incremental cost — for example, further learning losses that are unlikely to ever be fully recovered.
This points to a larger problem. Dr. Comstock is pursuing one goal — infection risk reduction. But COVID is a much more complicated problem that involves multiple goals — for example, minimizing learning losses, minimizing mental health problems, and returning parents to the workforce.
Since the pandemic arrived, too many officials have focused on only one of the challenges we have faced. They have shied away from making difficult trade-offs between competing goals and clearly explaining their reasoning to the public.
This is not leadership, and it is not what the public expects and deserves in a crisis.
Last but not least, I am very deeply troubled by the fact that this decision, like too many others that have been made during the pandemic, was never discussed in a public forum or approved by elected officials who are directly responsible to the people. Ultimately, the expansion of Dr. Comstock’s power to rule by fiat under the guise of “public health” undermines our democracy.
And that should scare all of us