If some students wear masks and some don’t, what’s the risk?

‘You can’t get away from the virus by sitting in the corner of the room,’ Seminole County health director says

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Thousands of students across Central Florida will return to school this week, and some will be required to wear masks, including in Orange and Seminole Counties.

The school districts announced that masks will be mandatory for students unless parents opt out their children with a signed note. This means some students will be wearing masks and some won’t -- which means COVID will spread, Seminole County Health Director Dr. Todd Husty fears.

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“You can’t get away from the virus by sitting in the corner of the room,” Husty said. “The only way we can stop the transmission of the virus in the classroom or any other setting where you can not socially distance is masking, especially kids under 12 because they can’t get vaccinated.”

Husty said the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreads especially easily and he believes it will run through schools if everyone isn’t wearing a mask.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 93,824 pediatric COVID-19 cases were reported between July 29 and Aug. 5, with children representing 15% of the weekly reported cases in the U.S. Husty emphasized with fewer precautions, pediatric virus cases could get worse.

“What’s the risk to each kid? The answer is the hospitalization of children is going up but not a lot. So the risk to each child of getting something horrible is just a little bit more,” Husty said. “We don’t like any risk with kids so don’t get me wrong, but this is a percentage thing so it only goes up a little bit. But the risk of taking it to other people, like the parents, like the grandparents, like the people who are out and about, they can spread the disease just like everybody else.”

The AAP reports that since July 22, child COVID-19 cases have jumped 4% with a sixth of virus cases being reported in children.

Last month, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order requiring school districts to give parents a choice, so both Orange and Seminole counties are allowing parents to write a note to opt out their children from mask-wearing.

Some schools, like Seminole High School, are letting parents opt out online. Parents received a form they can fill out and submit electronically.

If parents want to write a note, Seminole and Orange County schools said the note must contain something like “I opt out my child,” the note must be signed by a parent or guardian, and students must give it to a teacher.

Experts are asking parents to monitor the spread of COVID-19 at their child’s school and to seriously consider asking their student to wear a mask.

About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.