NAVIGATING MANDATE LIFTS: IS THERE A HIGHER RISK FOR UNMASKED CHILDREN?

As mask mandates are phased out, individuals, including parents, are beginning to discuss their current stance on face masks and whether or not we and our children should continue to wear them. What are the risks of navigating life unmasked? Is there a higher risk for unmasked children? The decision is now in our hands and it's important to ensure we are making one that keeps us all feeling comfortable and safe.

REMOVING THE REMINDER

Removing face masks from the classroom can have a domino effect, as it not only has the potential to increase the risk of children becoming infected but also communicates to them that there is much less to worry about. Masks serve as a mode of protection, of course, but also a way of reminding children that continuing to practice other safety measures is important. Without masks as an indicator, it can be easily forgotten to not share snacks, water bottles, keep up with frequent hand washing and social distancing or other safety measures.

OUR DECISIONS IMPACT EVERYONE

It's important to keep in mind that there are still millions of individuals who are immunocompromised, more susceptible to severe COVID outcomes, or still too young to be eligible for the vaccine. We're never sure of what's going on in each child's household and by letting our little ones head to the classroom unmasked, we're potentially creating a ripple effect that could harm those at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and its variants, or suffering from severe symptoms.

For example, perhaps a young student who is ineligible for the vaccine has a grandparent (or two) that lives with them. If the grandparent is more susceptible to contracting the virus due to their age or other health issues, sending our children to school unmasked increases the risk of infection for the entire household, in addition to creating potentially severe outcomes for the grandparent and unvaccinated child. These are important details to keep in mind, as our decisions not only impact ourselves but for other families of all sizes as well.

THE NEW "STEALTH" VARIANT

More and more we're hearing of the newest variant called BA.2 and nicknamed the "stealth" variant, which experts are closely monitoring. It appears to be directly related to Omicron, which is also called BA.1 and was first identified in South Africa, Denmark and the UK. It has now been detected in 40 countries, including the US and Canada.

Recently, it has become the dominant variant in Alberta and, based on recent numbers, BA.2 variant cases appear to be doubling in this province every week. It also seems to be more transmissible than previous variants, ultimately increasing the risk for the vulnerable.

"We see BA.2 rising in frequency. We know it's more transmissible. At the same time, we're seeing restrictions ease up. This isn't a great recipe. It certainly makes me concerned about … whether we're going to see a surge because we've got this double whammy happening at the same time," said Sarah Otto, a University of British Columbia professor and member of an independent COVID-19 modelling group.

With this in mind, a notable detail about the BA.2 variant is its ability to reinfect those who have already had the BA.1 or Omicron variant. A recent study documented dozens of cases from Denmark, where those who had caught BA.2, caught it after already experiencing an infection with BA.1, meaning they had caught Omicron twice within a couple of months.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PROTECT YOURSELF & LITTLE ONES AGAINST THE NEW BA.2 VARIANT?

First and foremost, if you and your little ones are still using a cloth or surgical face mask (or even double-masking), now is the time to upgrade to a KN95/N95. We're aware that cloth and surgical face masks (even those equipped with a layer of polypropylene fabric) do not provide efficient enough protection and allow over 50% of potentially harmful aerosols to escape, as continually discussed by top health experts. We elaborate more on this in our other blog post.

Learn more about selecting the KN95 style that works best for you here.

Our selection of Individually Sealed KN95 Mask options offers optimal protection and quality for you and your little ones to navigate the emergence of the new BA.2 variant. Each one of these masks has been tested by an established and trusted testing facility and passed with a minimum filtration rate of 95! You can rest assured knowing that you're investing in the best and respecting the potential vulnerability of other households.

Shop our Individually Sealed KN95 Mask Collection here.

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These Individually Sealed KN95 Face Masks for both adults and children have been our best sellers since they were added to the catalogue! The individual seal works great for little ones and busy families, as it allows the mask to maintain its integrity while stored away in a backpack, locker, desk or pocket and while in transit. You'll never have to worry about you or your child being equipped with a compromised or contaminated face mask! The comfortable construction of each mask provides a tight facial seal and contours to the wearer's face, without affecting the masks' long-lasting breathability.

See our Mask Sizing Guide or recent blog post for further information on choosing the right fit and style for you and your loved ones.

Continuing other public health guidelines that we are already familiar with, such as social distancing, getting vaccinated or boosted (if eligible) and refraining from entering crowded spaces are other ways we can enhance our protection against this new, highly transmissible variant.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

What hinders children the most is having their school schedule and daily routines consistently jostled or in a state of unknown. When they or their teacher are quarantined due to an infection, this ultimately throws off any momentum they had built on a particular subject or project.

With a new and highly transmissible variant on the rise, we need to understand that the decisions we are making today will have a lasting impact on the future of our little ones and their education.

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