Montana Public Health: No Evidence Masks Work, Missoula Schools Defiant
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The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services issued an emergency rule yesterday stating that the scientific data on the efficacy of masking is inconclusive at best and that studies show that forcing children to wear a mask can not only be detrimental to their physical health, but their emotional and mental health as well.
The scientific literature is not conclusive on the extent of the impact of masking on reducing the spread of viral infections. The department understands that randomized control trials have not clearly demonstrated mask efficacy against respiratory viruses, and observational studies are inconclusive on whether mask use predicts lower infection rates, especially with respect to children. 1
The department understands, however, that there is a body of literature, scientific as well as survey/anecdotal, on the negative health consequences that some individuals, especially some children, experience as a result of prolonged mask wearing. 2MT DPHHS Emergency Rule. August 31, 2021.
“Unfortunately, mandating masks for students is based on inconclusive research that fails to prove masks’ effectiveness in reducing the incidence of COVID-19 in the classroom,” Governor Greg Gianforte said in a statement. “Simply put, our children shouldn’t be subject to arbitrary mask mandates when schools can’t follow the science because there’s a lack of meaningful, reliable research.”
The health rule states that parents should be able to opt-out of face mask requirements for their children. “As those best suited and entitled to assess individual needs for the physical, mental, and developmental well-being of their minor children, parents or guardians, in consultation with their children’s health care provider as appropriate, should be afforded the ability to opt-out of mask requirements on behalf of their children,” the rule states.
Missoula County Public Schools Superintendent Rob Watson said in an email to staff yesterday that the school is already in compliance with the rule, “We do not believe that this emergency rule compels any change to our current face covering guidelines. Please continue to follow our face covering guidelines, unless or until you are notified otherwise.”
“The School District provides parents and students the ability to opt-out of wearing a mask,” a statement from MCPS in response to the rule read, “However, should they opt out, they are opting into learning off-campus or virtual learning. The School District is prepared to provide assistance to parents looking to exercise that option.”
The school district’s opt-out policy forces a separate and unequal accommodation for students whose parents choose not to mask their children, a possible violation of the students civil rights under the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution.
The health rule continues, “Similarly, mask wearing can interfere with the learning and general well-being of school-aged children, related to their age and development; their disabilities, and physical and mental health attributes; and classroom health, safety, and productivity.”
According to a survey conducted by Common Sense Media, 60% of teens said that online learning is worse than in-person learning, and nearly one fifth said it’s “much worse.” The survey also noted that 56% of surveyed students were worried about losing connections with their friends.
The state health rule also asserts that forcing a child to wear a mask can exacerbate certain physical ailments, “The scientific literature has identified, with respect to pediatrics, diseases, or predispositions where masking may present significant risks, including respiratory diseases, cardiopulmonary diseases (asthma, bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, congenital heart disease, emphysema), neuromuscular diseases, and epilepsy.”
The rule, issued by Montana’s health director Adam Meier, reenforced a similar joint statement released from the Governor and the Office of Public Instruction at the beginning of August,
“While the CDC has repeatedly changed its mask recommendations over the last 16 months, trustees and superintendents should give due consideration to available data and the voices of Montana parents as it relates to whether their children are required to wear masks in schools,” the joint letter stated. The statement also asserted that school boards should consider evidence provided by the DPHHS when considering mask mandates.
Last week, parents and the advocacy group Stand Up Montana, filed suit against Missoula County and Missoula school districts requesting a temporary restraining order and injunction against mask requirements. The suit cites a mountain of evidence against masking and a startling lack of scientific evidence for masking. In the 52-page suit the parents refute the narrative that masks work by pointing to CDC data on infections and mortality and existing data on mask effectiveness.
The parent’s suit also alleges incompetency on the part of school board trustees noting that they had not provided any compelling government interest including providing compelling evidence that masks work to justify such an interest. The suit states that school board trustees did not “retain or rely upon” any competent professional (such as a virologist) to justify their mask policies.
After signing the emergency rule, DPHHS Director Adam Meier said, “A number of scientific studies indicate that universal mask use among children can adversely affect their health and development, particularly among children with learning or developmental disabilities. DPHHS respects the authority of parents to make health-related decisions in the best interest of their children, including whether wearing a mask in school is appropriate. DPHHS would encourage schools to take into account all of these factors and implement any mitigation strategies in the least restrictive means as possible to maximize learning outcomes for Montana children.”