DEAR EDITOR:

I am writing to bring to attention the fact that we are creating second-class citizens out of our children. While I understand the COVID-19 virus in all its permutations has been very difficult for everyone in our community, we are self-inflicting unnecessary administrative headaches on our entire population. For example, it is no longer appropriate to contact trace our kids, neighbors, friends and fellow community members. The purpose of contact tracing is containment, and containment is no longer possible. That ship has sailed a long time ago. Quarantining healthy individuals for exposure of a virus that is decidedly everywhere is not fair to that healthy person who needs to work or go to school or just needs to get out of their house to thrive. Mandating masks is no longer appropriate because cases are so high, so the mask mandate has no detectable benefit of reducing transmission rates. At this point the purpose of a mask — or a second, third or fourth vaccine, for that matter — is to mitigate individual risk for disease severity. There are also many other ways to mitigate our individual risks, including but not limited to exercise, losing weight, gaining weight, boosting vitamin D levels, washing your hands, not going out, going out more for social activities and so on. Whether or not the individual will benefit from any of these remedies is highly dependent on the individual’s age, weight, prior immunity and so many other factors. Therefore, only we as individuals should be making these decisions for ourselves and our children.

However, in its real life application, what the mask mandate has done is shift the burden of disease mitigation on to the youngest people in our population. Our children have the least risk for severe outcomes from COVID, but the most risk in severe outcomes from wearing a mask for now almost two solid years on end. The adults can sidestep the mask mandate by getting a drink at the bar, making brand new friends every night for hours on end. But if a kid pulls their mask down for fresh air or to even sip water at their desk, that child risks getting sent to the principal’s office and getting shamed, demonized or shunned by their teacher and peers. The kids at our schools have been scolded by educators for not masking hard enough when case rates have gone up, implying that this pandemic is the fault of the kids. Kids have had to eat their lunches outside in winter temperatures, some on the ground, or eat lunch completely alone inside. The kids have to wear masks outside at recess. The kids have spent more hours in masks than any other demographic of our population. In effect, we are disrupting their pyschosocial emotional development at very tender ages. I have been told by some people that the “kids don’t mind.” Well, I mind. I mind very much. Please ponder that the kids will never get these two years back, and I am wondering out loud how long will we continue to treat our youth as second-class citizens? The countywide mask mandate in reality is very harsh on children and very lax on adults, this makes the countywide mask mandate unethical. Please make masking a choice, so that the kids can get on with their lives.

Emily Masson

Telluride