The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was revealed on Tuesday to have previously altered their masking guidance for schools to include clear masks, after education advocates stated for over a year the harmful effects of masks on children's speech and reading development.
While the CDC has been advocating for the importance of wearing a mask indoors and in classrooms, education advocates have stated that these masks prevent young children learning to read, and others going through speech therapy, from being able to properly learn how the structure of words.
One of these advocates, Karen Vaites of Eduvaites, who says she is a "principal-turned-curriculum-director," stated that the September update to the masking guidelines "is interesting timing; speech pathologists have been talking about the need for masks with clear panels since early in the pandemic."
In a screenshot of the CDC website posted by Vaites to Twitter, on September 10, 2021, the guidelines were updated to include a section on "Alternative Masks for Special Situations."
This section states that "clear masks or cloth masks with a clear plastic panel are an alternative type of mask that may be helpful when interacting with certain groups of people, such as: People who are deaf or hard of hearing, Young children or students learning to read, Students learning a new language, People with disabilities, People who need to see the proper shape of the mouth for making appropriate vowel sounds."
"Let's talk about why none of us knew about the change," wrote Vaites. "The @CDCgov coming out to finally acknowledge that masks impede children's reading & speech development would seem important, no? You'd think @CDCDirector would broadcast. Or at least we'd see tweets. Anyone heard a peep?"
Vaites continued on to ask those parents with children in pre-kindergarten through 1st grade, "the learning to read years," who has been expected to wear a mask and has not been told about the allowance of clear masks, "given the known importance of seeing mouths in reading instruction?"
Vaites included a tweet from a parent that said their 6-year-old child is in speech therapy, where both the child and the teacher are both required to wear masks. "My son can't see the therapist's mouth demonstrate anything. She can't see his," they said.
"No, the @CDCgov @CDCDirector are too busy putting out communications to scare everyone about COVID risk," wrote Vaites. "Including a study on kids & diabetes that drew instant critique from doctors and scientists. No time to talk about mitigations that impede kids' development!"
Vaites noted that "masks have become so politicized" that "we are not allowed to talk about the downsides/risks of masking children. Even when they are in plain sight."
According to Vaites, "Masks impede language development and they also impede the process of kids learning how to read," including a previous thread of hers published in late July that went over her experience sitting in on a kindergarten classroom while they learned how to read, and the importance of being able to see the teacher's mouth, and the teacher being able to see the students' mouths.
"Maybe they didn’t broadcast it because they know that good masks-with-clear-panels options are few & far between," Vaites said on the CDC's inclusion of clear masks, including a tweet that said the masks fogged up.
In Vaites' July thread, she included a number of sources that state that reading levels and competency have fallen since the beginning of the pandemic.
According to a 74 Million article published in February of 2021, data from Amplify revealed that "twenty percent fewer kindergartners are on track to learn how to read than their peers were at this time last year."
"Thirty-seven percent of this year's kindergartners are on-track in early reading skills, compared to 55 percent during the 2019-20 school year, just prior to the pandemic. Among first graders, 43 percent are on target, compared to 58 percent last year," 74 Million, an outlet dedicated to covering education in America, wrote.
The data revealed a pronounced disparity in learning for black and hispanic students, with "3 percent more white kindergarteners are considered at-risk, while for Black and Hispanic kindergarteners, the increases are 27 percent and 25 percent, respectively," according to the outlet.
According to Amplify's data, the number of kindergarten students needing "intensive intervention" in their reading was 28 percent during the 2019-2020 school year. In the 2020-2021 school year, that number had jumped to 47 percent. First graders saw a similar jump, rising from 26 percent to 43 percent.