Columbia Pediatric Immunologist Mark Gorelik Calls CDC's Mask Guidelines for Children 'Senseless'

Dr. Mark Gorelik, a pediatric immunologist, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) newly released mask guidelines for children's summer camps are "senseless."

"We know that the risk of outdoor infection is very low. We know risks of children becoming seriously ill or even ill at all is vanishingly small. And most of the vulnerable population is already vaccinated. I am supportive of effective measures to restrain the spread of illness," Gorelik, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, told New York Magazine.

He continued: "However, the CDC's recommendations cross the line into excess and are, frankly, senseless. Children cannot be running around outside in 90-degree weather wearing a mask. Period."

The new recommendations from the CDC have received some pushback from various pediatric experts who said the federal agency's rules go against what scientists known about the virus in children and force kids to unfairly bear the brunt of rigid mandates where the benefits do not outweigh the costs. Experts also argued that these rules are especially strict for the summertime, when the heat will become a difficult factor.

The CDC's guidance for youth and summer camps said that masks must be worn at all times—even outdoors—by everyone, included vaccinated adults and children as young as 2 years old. Campers must remain three feet apart at all times, including when outdoors.

"Irrational recommendations will do no good, could in this case do harm, and really discredit federal agencies," Gorelick said.

Dimitri Christakis, the editor-in-chief of the leading journal for pediatric medicine JAMA Pediatrics, agreed with Gorelick, calling the recommendations "unfairly draconian."

"We've consistently deprioritized the essential needs of human childhood. Keeping kids out of school, enforcing social distance on them," he told New York Magazine.

Summer Camp Mask Kids CDC Pediatric Immunologist
A child wearing a mask jumps to pop bubbles in Washington Square Parkas the city continues Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on September 13, 2020 in New York City. Columbia pediatric immunologist Mark Gorelik called the Center for Disease Prevention and Control's new guidelines for summer camps "senseless." Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty

Christakis, who is a pediatric epidemiologist at the University of Washington, argued that kids should be allowed to play in close proximity. He suggested that with regular rapid testing, which would be easy to implement, campers should be able to forgo masks entirely.

He added that even without weekly testing, children should be allowed to play sports without masks.

"Keeping children masked for activities like baseball and tennis is ridiculous," Christakis said.

Although the CDC has issued tight rules for summer camps, other health agencies have provided a looser framework for campers and staff to follow.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said that the main factor of consideration for masking children between the ages of 6 and 11 should be whether or not there is widespread transmission in the area.

The international agency also said children under the age of 6 shouldn't wear masks at all, and that children should specifically not wear one "when playing sports or doing physical activities, such as running, jumping, or playing on the playground, so that it doesn't compromise their breathing."

Comparably, the CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 2 should wear a mask.

Despite the criticisms, the CDC has defended its "layered" approach and said such guidelines protects both children and staff.

Gorelik declined Newsweek's request for additional comment.

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