The warning comes as some parents continue to protest against mask mandates in schools.
FULTON COUNTY, Ga. The division over masks in schools continues despite data showing COVID cases are on the rise among children in Georgia.
Data from the Georgia Department of Public Health shows that children from infancy to age 17 make up an average of 18% of cases in the state. In January, children accounted for 11% of cases.
The trend is troubling healthcare professionals across the state, including Dr. Hugo Scornik, the president of the Georgia branch of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Scornik said it was not too late to reverse the trend in the number of cases. His message: debunking the myth that COVID is not harmful to children.
He said thousands of children have been hospitalized and hundreds have died in recent weeks. This week, a Douglas County teen who had co-morbidities died after contracting the virus. Two weeks ago, a five-year-old with COVID complications died in Whitfield County.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other health experts have recommended everyone over the age of two to wear a mask indoors.
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But several parents are pushing back on mask mandates. Dozens of protesters gathered outside Milton High School on Saturday to express their opposition to the mandatory wearing of masks in class.
“We’re not against masks,” said Joe Gonzalez. “We are not against vaccines. What we are against is having our choices taken away from us.”
Milton is part of Fulton County Schools, which recently mandated masks for all but 15 schools in Johns Creek due to high infection rates.
Nooshin Johnson has children in the Cobb County School District, making masking optional in schools. She said Cobb should monitor surrounding school districts, including the Douglas County School System, which have introduced a mask mandate.
“We’re not just starting with this pandemic,” Johnson said. “We have facts and figures to support doing things that public health says we can do to curtail things and keep everyone from getting sick. Your choices don’t give you the right to endanger my children or the children of others. This isn’t just a personal choice situation. It’s a safety issue.”
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Sara Perry, a registered nurse with a child at Cobb County Schools, agreed that masks can help prevent the spread of COVID, while children under 12 are ineligible for the vaccine.
“If we don’t take mitigation efforts, meaning mask if you want to, not mask if you don’t want to, means we’re doing very little to prevent rapid spread,” Perry said.
Governor Brian Kemp said individual school districts should decide whether to introduce mask mandates.