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Here’s How Doctors With Kids Are Navigating the New Mask Guidance

medical review board members
Erin Pereira, DPT, OCS; Anita Chandrasekaran, MD, MPH; Jonathan B. Jassey, DO; Monique Rainford, MD; David Ozeri, MD; Sanja Jelic, MD.

Key Takeaways

  • Updated CDC guidance says fully vaccinated people do not need to wear a mask in any setting, except while traveling.
  • The guidelines have caused confusion about whether unvaccinated kids still need to wear a mask when the rest of the family doesn’t have to.
  • Doctors with kids are mixed in their reactions to the guidelines. They’re also divided on whether or not they’ll let their kids be around people who don’t wear masks.

Whether we’re ready for it or not, new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has swiftly cleared the path to normalcy in the United States. The May 13 update says it’s safe for fully vaccinated people to stop wearing masks both indoors and outdoors, regardless of crowd size. But the CDC makes no mention of how maskless individuals will prove their vaccination status—an omission some experts feel could put children at risk. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has since clarified that kids under 12 should continue to wear masks in most situations that involve people from outside their household. Children under 2 are not expected to wear a mask.

Kids under 12 are likely still months away from being eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. They are still at risk for the disease—albeit low risk—even as the adults and adolescents in their lives  begin to return to “normal.” There is plenty of uncertainty and uneasiness about how to handle this mixed vaccination status, especially since states, cities, businesses, and school systems are free to implement the CDC mask guidance differently. 

With no straightforward answers in sight, we asked the parents of the Verywell Health Medical Review Board how they’re navigating the guideline change in their own lives. 

How do doctors feel about their kids coexisting with a maskless society? The answer depends a lot on age and location.

Mask Up For Infants

Anita Chandrasekaran, MD, MPH, is a rheumatologist at Hartford Healthcare Medical Group in Connecticut. As a mom to a 1-year-old, she is not comfortable with her daughter being around maskless adults or kids. 

“My daughter is too young to be vaccinated and I do not feel that enough people have been vaccinated to create herd immunity,” Chandrasekaran says. “We are relying on the honor system to ensure that only those who have been vaccinated remove their masks in public, which unfortunately, in this politically-charged climate, is not reliable.”

But it’s not just unvaccinated adults who pose a risk, she says.

“Kids, especially, do not socially distance, and they are more likely to be asymptomatic carriers of the virus,” she says. “This creates a huge issue if they are running around stores unmasked.”

Erin Pereira, DPT, OCS, a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Athletico Physical Therapy in the western suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, feels similarly about her 10-week-old’s exposure to people without masks.

“Other kids under age 2 are fine since they can’t wear masks, but I am not comfortable with my son being around maskless people over age 2,” she says. 

Both Pereira and Chandrasekaran say they are still wearing masks outside of their households. 

More Leniency For Older Kids

Monique Rainford, MD, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale Health in Connecticut, is also still wearing a mask in most situations. She’s not yet comfortable with her 10- and 12-year-old being around people who don’t wear masks, unless she is “sure the adults are vaccinated and small groups of close family or friends.”

Jonathan B. Jassey, DO, a pediatrician at Bellmore Merrick Medical in New York, is slightly more comfortable with his kids (ages 14, 12, and 8) being around other maskless kids or adults, but his older two just got their first shot. 

“I’m more comfortable with my two oldest, but mostly OK with [kids being around maskless people] since kids have been handling COVID-19 infections really well,” he says. “As a pediatrician, I’ve had one child over the course of a year who was hospitalized due to COVID. They developed MIS-C, but did well.”

What Is MISC-C?

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is a condition that causes severe inflammation in vital organs such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, and more.

According to AAP data from April 21, 2021, kids have accounted for only 13.8% of COVID-19 cases in the United States. Fewer than 2% of all pediatric COVID-19 cases resulted in hospitalization.

Jassey says he will probably encourage his children to keep masks on in more crowded indoor locations, like a mall. Personally, he’s starting to feel more comfortable not wearing a mask outside of work himself, like while eating at a restaurant. 

A Different Perspective Abroad

For David Ozeri, MD, a rheumatologist at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, Israel, the situation feels different for his three kids (ages 11, 9, and 6). He is comfortable with them being around other kids and adults who are not wearing masks, and does not foresee any situations in which he’d encourage them to keep masks on. 

“Here in Israel, the entire adult population has had access to the vaccine. The majority of adults are vaccinated or have recovered from the infection,” he says. “Kids were never the problem. The well-being of our children was greatly impacted by quarantines, school closures, masks, and fear, even though kids themselves weren’t really in any danger. At this point, we need to put their well-being first.”

Even in New York City, where only 40% of residents are fully vaccinated, pulmonologist Sanja Jelic, MD, has a similar take on mask-wearing. 

“I am extremely comfortable with my daughter (6) being maskless around maskless adults, regardless of their vaccination status,” she says. “I have not been wearing a mask outdoors since the beginning of the pandemic unless I am in close contact with people.”

Jelic encourages people to follow CDC guidelines. She advises against wearing a mask as a form of “virtue signaling”—a public expression of good character or point of view.

Make the Decision That’s Right For Your Family

As these six Medical Review Board members indicate, decisions about mask-wearing are extremely personal and situational, even for physicians. It’s important to remember that the guidelines are just that—guidelines. If you are fully vaccinated and want to continue to wear a mask out of an abundance of caution, there is no reason not to.

“I will continue to wear a mask, even though I am vaccinated, to protect those around me in the off chance that I am infected and am asymptomatic,” Chandrasekaran says. 

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 in Children and Teens. March 17, 2021.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). Updated February 21, 2021.

  3. NYC Health. COVID-19 Vaccines. Updated May 20, 2021.