American Federation for Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten suggested Tuesday on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" that in order to end masking for students and teachers, the spread of COVID-19 needs to be "low enough" so that there’s no transmission in schools.
Co-host Willie Geist asked the AFT president about the argument against unmasking children.
"I am in favor of an off ramp on masks," Weingarten said. "The real issue becomes, is the spread low enough so that there’s no dissemination and transmission in schools?"
"And it’s not the teachers transmitting to kids, it's more kids and kids particularly in elementary schools right now," she continued.
Several states, including California, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware and Oregon, announced in recent days that they were pulling back on indoor mask mandates.
Los Angeles Health officials, however, said Tuesday that they don’t plan to lift mandates, despite California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement.
Earlier in the segment, Geist asked Weingarten if ending mask mandates in schools was a good idea. She said we need to be "talking about the off ramp for masks."
Weingarten said that no one wants masks.
"Not teachers, not students," she said.
"We’ve got two years of science now," Geist said. "The percentage of overall deaths is infinitesimal. Children in the larger population, that it doesn’t spread easily in schools. That so many teachers have been vaccinated, or at least had the opportunity to be vaccinated. Now kids have the chance to be vaccinated, so at what point do we just say, ‘okay it’s time to get rid of the masks.’ Isn’t there enough science available already?"
"We believe in an off ramp," Weingarten repeated. "The real question becomes, how do we make sure that people can plan for it and what are the measures so that everybody knows, so that it doesn’t feel like it’s based upon politics, it feels like it’s based upon making sure that there is no transmission in school."
The COVID-19 pandemic has been shown to have had a damaging effect on mental health in general, but specifically in children, something that was acknowledged by U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Tuesday. Murthy said to lawmakers that the pandemic has had a negative and "devastating" effect on mental health.
"I am deeply concerned as a parent and a doctor that the obstacles this generation of young people face are unprecedented and uniquely hard to navigate and the impact that’s having on their mental health is devastating," he said.
Suicide attempts among girls between 12- and 17-years-old have increased 51% from Feb. 21 to March 20 in 2021, a June CDC report found.
Dr. Deborah Levine, a pediatric emergency medicine physician in New York City, said in December that the number of mental health-related emergencies has increased overall, but was even worse when the pandemic hit.
"The problem has always been there. The pandemic, we felt it even more so," she said.