I have written many opinion pieces over the last 15 months with the goal of promoting a common sense approach to decision-making in matters related to COVID-19. It seems to me we have too often ignored the law of unintended consequences during this pandemic.
Over the past school year, we have lived with a complex set of CDC school orders and quarantine procedures that made in-school learning much more difficult than necessary. For a prolonged period, we lived with recommendations to just stay inside at all times – just building fear, depression, and anxiety and threatening millions of jobs.
I thought I had seen about every overly cautious regulation possible before our family attempted to take a trip with my two-year-old grandchild on the weekend before last. This one took the cake.
The trip from San Antonio to Dallas was made into quite an adventure by a current CDC order that all children two years and older must wear a mask throughout the airplane trip. For those who have ever had a chance to spend any time with a two-year-old, you know what the potential barriers are to applying these orders.
When we entered the plane to come home from our trip to San Antonio, my grandson with no mask was met by a steward who commented his glasses reminded him of the child in the movie “Jerry Maguire”. As we walked down the aisle, we were met by another steward who focused in on the fact that Collin had no mask.
When we reached our seats, we began the litany of explaining to a two-year-old who had missed his nap why he should wear his mask like his mother and grandfather. Unfortunately on this day, Collin did not agree with our rationale. He refused to keep his mask over his mouth and nose.
The steward came back to our seat and told us in no uncertain terms that Collin had to wear the mask over his nose and mouth for the entire trip home. We told him that Collin refused to wear the mask and that we didn’t know anything else to do to entice him to wear it.
The steward then informed us he would get his boss. That steward who had originally met us at the door tried without success to get Collin to wear a different mask provided by the airline. This effort was profoundly unsuccessful.
The next person to come to our row was a security person there to usher us off the plane. We did our perp walk off the plane with Collin in my arms and my daughter following with Collin’s diaper bag. My wife was left on the plane with our four-year-old grandchild.
Left in the airport, we had two choices – either to try a flight on another airline or rent a car to drive home. Fortunately, we did get home late that night but that doesn’t negate the fact this order to force face mask use on two and three year olds is difficult to implement and unnecessary. Children this age pose essentially zero COVID risk to themselves and others.
The World Health Organization recommends that children age 2-5 should not wear masks and decisions on those 6-11 should be made on an individualized risk-based approach. As we open up schools without masks in Louisiana for all children this summer, the CDC continues the order to mask two year olds.
The recent CDC decision to finally release those who are vaccinated from most physical distancing and masking is a step in the right direction. It will open up the economy in many states currently not open for business and hopefully will prevent our government from adding trillions of dollars to the already huge national debt – further punishing young families and their two and three year olds.
I appreciate the difficulty of the work of the CDC but overcaution can have negative consequences just like too little caution. What happened to my family happens to families in airplanes every day and really needs to stop. Any amount of thoughtful evaluation of this travel masking order for very young children would render the judgment this recommendation defies common sense.
Dr. Phillip Rozeman is a practicing cardiologist. He is the former board chair of the Northwest Louisiana Medical Society and is the second recipient of the John Miciotto Healthcare Lifetime Achievement Award of the Bossier Chamber.