Trust Index: Fact-checking DeSantis’ statement on children wearing masks in classrooms

We’re putting through the Trust Index a statement from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office about children wearing masks in classrooms.

We’re putting through the Trust Index a statement from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office about children wearing masks in classrooms.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidance recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to K-12 schools -- something DeSantis has publically said he opposes.

Following the CDC’s call for universal indoor masking for K-12 schools on Tuesday, DeSantis’ office released the following statement:

“Governor DeSantis believes that parents know what’s best for their children; therefore, parents in Florida are empowered to make their own choices with regards to masking. Experts have raised legitimate concerns that the risks of masking outweigh the potential benefits for children, because masking children can negatively impact their learning, speech, emotional and social development, and physical health (e.g., infections from bacteria that’s often found on masks, difficulty breathing while exercising in masks, etc.) Fortunately, the data indicate that COVID is not a serious risk to healthy children, which is why schools in most countries were among the first institutions to reopen. At the end of the day, the Governor trusts parents to weigh the risks and benefits and make the best choices for their kids.”

News4Jax got input from two different doctors -- epidemiologist Dr. Jonathan Kantor and Mayo Clinic Dr. Jennifer Cowart -- about the part of the statement saying “the risks of masking outweigh the potential benefits.”

Cowart says the idea that masks are harmful to children is an opinion that is outside the mainstream in pediatrics and in science. She says the American Academy of Pediatricians has studied this heavily.

″They came down on the side that they are not physically harmful, they are not emotionally harmful, and they’re making that statement,” Cowart said. “I would add one qualifier -- we may have some kids and adults with very specific types of mental or physical disability that may make it difficult for them to wear a mask, but those are generally folks who know that they have this specific problem and they are working with physicians on ways to stay safe.”

Kantor agrees.

“As with anything in science, there are many opinions out there, and I would say the vast majority of opinions would swing in the other direction and would instead argue that the net benefit of wearing of masks probably in most cases outweighs those risks,” Kantor said.

A consensus of doctors from hospitals across the country also says there is no evidence that masks make it difficult to breathe. Based on information from the American Academy of Pediatrics and two physicians, the News4Jax Trust Index gives the comment that “the risks of masking outweigh the potential benefits” a rating of not true.

Not True

After review, we've found this information is Not True.

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News4Jax also asked Kantor about another part of the statement saying “COVID is not a serious risk to healthy children.” Kantor says the statement on its face is true but points out that each child’s personal health is uniquely different.

“COVID, in general, is not a serious risk to healthy children. The chances of a healthy child having terrible downstream effects from COVID is very, very small. That’s the good news, but there are a couple of problems,” Kantor said. “No. 1, not all children are healthy children, and No. 2, children potentially being infected with COVID doesn’t affect that child only itself, but also all the people the child is spreading that virus to as well, so that’s where those considerations need to be weighed carefully.”

Kantor went on to say that in the big picture, the comment by itself that COVID-19 is not a serious risk to healthy children is valid because data reflects that healthy kids are not experiencing hospitalizations or death. So the News4Jax Trust Index is rating this comment as true.

It's True

We’ve reviewed information surrounding this topic and confirmed that It’s True.

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About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.