FGCU professor on misconceptions surrounding masks, children’s health

Published: September 1, 2021 8:53 AM EDT
Updated: September 1, 2021 11:55 AM EDT
Masked students in Lee County. Credit: WINK News

Lee County parents will want to make sure their kids have their masks on before they head out the door Wednesday morning, because the mask mandate for students and teachers is taking effect. The director of Florida Gulf Coast University’s physician assistant program weighs in on concerns some parents have expressed.

One might think the masks don’t make a difference if everyone is vaccinated, but kids under the age of 12 can’t get yet vaccinated, which is why Assistant Professor and Program Director of FGCU’s Physician Assistant Studies, Robert Hawkes (MPAS), says these masks really do make a difference. He also addressed the argument that little children can’t be tasked with taking care of the same mask every day.

“It is important that when children wear masks to school, that the masks, if they’re disposable, are only worn once a day,” Hawkes said. “And then replacements are given every day, or that the masks are cleaned. So what children don’t want to do is wear the same masks for several days, because that certainly can contain bacteria, and certainly pose a potential problem.”

Hawkes says the notion that kids will lose oxygen to their lungs and brain if they wear a mask is simply not true, and that there’s more than enough oxygen for them in the ambient air. But one Cape Coral parent was unconvinced by expert advice.

“I know my daughters, when they were there, they can’t keep a mask on,” said Jack Harness. “They trade the Spider-Man mask for the Batman mask, you know? And you can’t keep things on them, you know, so I don’t think children are nearly as susceptible to COVID.”

“The whole purpose of wearing the masks is to protect everyone,” Hawkes said. “We know that the pediatric population has received a significant increase in COVID cases, all we have to do is unfortunately look at our local hospitals and the number of pediatric patients that are involved.”