White House press secretary Jen Psaki cited her own kindergarten-aged child to justify the Biden administration’s guidance that kids returning to classrooms in a few weeks to begin the new school year should be wearing masks for several hours per day, despite prior studies that have shown they are ineffective and that wearing one long-term has deleterious effects.
During a Friday press conference, Psaki was asked by Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy if the administration was fielding any concerns from various officials regarding the mask guidance for returning school children. As the administration has often done in recent days, Psaki immediately attacked Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, who signed legislation last week barring mask mandates in schools, leaving the decision up to parents.
“Back-to-school question: Florida’s Governor DeSantis says that he may start withholding funds from school districts that don’t let parents opt out of policies that require masks in the classroom,” Doocy asked Psaki at one point during the presser. “Does [President Biden] think that parents should have that kind of power?”
“Well, I think I’ve spoken to this a few times, but I will say, as a parent myself of two young children, that I want public health officials to make decisions about how to keep my kids safe, not politicians,” said the spokeswoman. “And not only is Governor DeSantis not abiding by public health decisions, he’s fundraising off of this.”
Continuing, Psaki said her view and that of the White House is that “parents in Florida, parents across the country should have the ability and the knowledge that their kids are going to school and they’re in safe environments,” adding it “shouldn’t be too much to ask.”
Doocy drilled down on DeSantis’ specific concerns about forcing kids to wear masks for hours a day, five days a week.
“He says that his concern is about harmful, emotional, academic, and psychological effects of putting kindergarteners in masks for hours at a time. Is there any concern from officials that you guys talked to in your early pre-decisional discussions about that?” Doocy asked.
“No, there’s not,” Psaki fired back. “And I will tell you from personal experience, my rising kindergartener told me, two days ago, she could wear a mask all day, and she’s just happy to go to camp and go to school.”
Newsmax TV’s White House correspondent Emerald Robinson also engaged in a testy exchange with Psaki over masks. In their back-and-forth, Robinson noted that the Biden transition team’s COVID-19 adviser, Dr. Michael Osterholm, noted last week that the type of masks being worn by most Americans are ineffective at preventing the spread of the virus, which has been known for some time.
“We need to talk about better masking,” Olsterholm told CNN’s John King.
Again, Psaki pushed back, using the excuse that Olsterholm does not currently work for the administration.
As Robinson noted Olsterholm was “one of the president’s top COVID advisers,” Psaki interjected, “who’s not a current adviser to the president.”
“But was,” Robinson responded. “Still notable, right?”
After she gave a summary of Olsterholm’s statements, she said, “That’s sort of in line with the study that Governor DeSantis is citing as the basis for his executive order.”
“I think you’re confusing a few things there, but let me first say that Osterholm is not an adviser to the president, to the administration, to the White House, he doesn’t work here. He’s a private citizen and … a public health expert,” Psaki said tersely.
“I will say that we are going to continue to rely on the advice of medical experts in the federal government on what kind of masks we all should wear. What kind of masks kids should wear. If they change that advice, then the Department of Education will be working with schools to make sure that’s implemented as a mitigation measure,” she added.
Psaki went on to accuse DeSantis of “preventing schools and teachers and others from protecting themselves and the students in their classroom,” but in fact, legislation he signed only prohibits schools in the state from imposing a mask mandate, not the wearing of masks by choice.
To that point, prior studies are leading to an emerging body of evidence that strongly suggests long-term mask-wearing for children is, indeed, harmful, both physically and psychologically.
In March, the American Institute of Economic Research published a piece containing links to nearly two dozen studies that show masking up for long periods of time “can trigger a variety of other problems including acute anxiety attacks in susceptible individuals,” and that these conditions “are even more likely to occur to children, particularly smaller children.”
And in April, City Journal’s John Tierney listed a number of additional studies indicating that masking children for lengthy periods — months — is physically and emotionally detrimental.
Plus, there is ample evidence to show that masks themselves are not effective at blocking COVID-19.
“Those masks are only effective so long as they are dry,” notes Professor Yvonne Cossart of the Department of Infectious Diseases at the University of Sydney. “As soon as they become saturated with the moisture in your breath, they stop doing their job and pass on the droplets.”
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