Vermont’s governor and health commissioner said Tuesday there is no evidence at the moment to assure parents that having kids play sports while wearing masks is safe, despite the state’s mask mandate for youth leagues.
“[These are] challenging times, but we just need to persevere and work through these, and I think there has to be some recognition that maybe there needs to be more breaks during games. You want to make sure that you are giving time to the kids to rest and catch their breath and so forth all the while keeping each other safe,” Gov. Phil Scott said during a media briefing.
Some parents are worried that their children are having trouble getting enough oxygen while practicing on the field and preparing for games. One mother told True North she has taken her child out of the Vermont soccer program and crossed the border to New York State, where masks are not required during play.
Dr. Mark Levine, the state’s health commissioner, also said there is no data that can back up the safety of the mask mandate for sports.
“The scientific evidence about the impairment of your physiology, if you will, from wearing a mask, [is] very minimal evidence, unfortunately,” he said. “So while I can’t tell you it strengthens your respiratory efforts, I can also tell you that there’s not enough out there to indicate that it can be harmful. But there’s very little research.”
Levine added that in close contact sports there is always going to be lots of people breathing heavily while close to one another.
“We also know that there’s opportunity just in the act of yelling and screaming for people to transmit the virus, whether they happen to be the players on the field who will be doing that or definitely the people who will be doing it on the sidelines,” he said. “So having this uniform policy seems to be the right thing to do even though we don’t have as much scientific data as you’d like us to have.”
Scott said sports has been a difficult area because the goal is to let kids have sports yet be safe from spread of the virus.
“It’s been difficult in terms of decisions because we want them to have that social type of interaction, but we also want to be safe and we want to keep others safe as well,” he said.
Some top institutions including the World Health Organization are recommending less strict mask policies than what is currently in place in Vermont. They do not recommend masks under age 5, whereas Vermont currently is requiring kids as young as age 3 to wear them. Up to age 11, the WHO says it depends on how many local cases of the virus there are.
In Ohio, Republican state Rep. Nino Vitale performed tests earlier this year on the oxygen levels of those wearing masks and found that the levels quickly dropped below what was considered safe according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. A description of the video can be found on the Free Republic.
A group of business owners and an optometrist in Tulsa, Oklahoma, filed a federal lawsuit to challenge the city’s mask mandate in mid-August. They make similar claims about oxygen levels falling while wearing a mask.
“The lawsuit that claims Tulsa’s mask ordinance creates an “oxygen-deficient atmosphere” under Department of Labor guidelines,” Tulsa World reports. “Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines define oxygen-deficient atmospheres as having below 19.5 percent oxygen content,” according to the filing.
COVID narrative breaking down
Earlier in the press conference, Levine had answered questions about new statistics reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York Times that questioned the lethality of COVID-19.
For example, one reporter asked about a Times investigation on data collected from three states that shows that up to 90 percent of people who test positive for COVID-19 don’t have enough of the virus in them to show symptoms or spread the disease.
In addition, a report the CDC released Monday said only about 6% of COVID deaths in the U.S. have been deaths from the virus alone. Some 9,000 Americans have died solely from COVID-19, while more than 170,000 deaths had an average of 2.6 comorbidities, meaning the patients had various illnesses burdening them at once.
“True, if we examine all the death certificates of everybody who has died of COVID in this country, 6 percent will say COVID was the only thing that killed the person — they were a healthy person otherwise,” Levine said. “The other 94 percent have a variety of diagnoses on their death certificate.”
He added, “They died because COVID was here on the planet, just like many of them die during a flu season of the flu, where they are kind of in a fragile balance but they can go on for years in that balance. But if they happen to get the flu it can be overwhelming to them, and their death certificate shows they died of the flu in the setting of these other kinds of diseases.”
As of Aug. 31, the CDC reports that 182,622 Americans have died from the virus, down below the 2.2 million initially predicted to die from the virus when the shutdowns began.