Despite the Center for Disease Control stating that participants in high-intensity sports “may not be able to wear a mask if it causes difficulty breathing,” Gov. Phil Scott is standing by his decision to require masks for children during sporting events.
“We’ve been more restrictive on it in a number of areas from the CDC and will continue to do what we think is right for Vermont, but again we just thought this is the right approach,” he said Monday during a COVID-related briefing.
“We had decisions to make as to whether we should have sports at all. The first priority is getting kids back in school, getting back into some in-person instruction which we found is safe,” he said. “Secondary to that was sports; we felt that having this mask to prevent the spread because the spread of the virus can happen to kids as well as adults and we just thought this is the right approach.”
Specifically, the CDC guidelines on sports and wearing masks state that with higher intensity sports, “people who are engaged in high intensity activities, like running, may not be able to wear a mask if it causes difficulty breathing.”
The World Health Organization also recommends 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.
For Vermont, the rule from the Agency of Commerce and Community Development guidelines is that athletes must use “cloth face coverings must be worn by all players, coaches, officials, staff and spectators at all times when physical distance of six feet cannot be consistently maintained.”
Dan French, the secretary of education said at Monday’s press conference that soon there will be new guidance for winter sports. He indicated that the state may continue to be strict with masks.
“The issues of indoor activities are more significant relative to our health considerations so hopefully we’ll have some guidance out for winter sports here in October,” he said.
Children are not considered common spreaders of the virus. At least twice in the press conference it was mentioned that there is currently no evidence that kids are spreading the virus in Vermont. The first was by French.
“In spite of the few cases we have seen in schools, the conditions remain very positive,” he said. “The cases we have seen in schools were a result of the virus essentially being brought to school. To date, we have not seen transmission of the virus in schools.”
Later in the conference, Health Commissioner Mark Levine said the same thing.
“I’ve been talking about how we expect to see an increase in cases as schools reopen and as we spend more time indoors as the weather cools off,” he said. “The good news is that as of today two weeks in we have seen no COVID-19 transmission within K-to-12 schools. Among the current cases associated with the three schools, none of the people who tested positive got the virus due to being in school.”
The CDC director also says there is no data supporting that children drive the spread of coronavirus.
“We really don’t have evidence that children are driving the transmission cycle of this,” said CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield.
On the subject of when society can start to get back to their pre-COVID lives, Levine indicated currently there’s no target that would allow that to happen.
“The subtlety in the messaging is the lifestyle that we are becoming accustomed to today and all of the things we are doing today actually will continue on even when the vaccine arrives because it’s a two-pronged strategy. It’s doing all the things we can to suppress the virus with the way we live but it’s also having a vaccine increase the numbers of us who might have a form immunity to the virus.”
Levine continued to warn that if Vermonters that the threat of the virus persists even when it seems like it has subsided.
“I have one additional but important point for schools and families, it’s a reminder that people may have the virus and not yet know it,” he said. “You may not have any symptoms or you may have mild symptoms but not recognize them as possibly being COVID-19.”