On Thursday, several Kent County commissioners and a packed room of parents expressed outrage over Health Officer Adam London’s mandate that school children wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

London, who issued the requirement mere days before children in the Grand Rapids area headed back to school this Monday, insisted at a board of commissioners meeting that no negative consequences come to children from wearing masks. 

“I sought the input of pediatricians, county doctors, behavioral-health specialists and others on this question. In their practice and in their study, they can find no reputable evidence of harm to children as a result of face masks. 

His remarks contradict some research that shows drawbacks in the ability of mask wearers to communicate thoroughly. A study by Claus-Christian Carbon, a professor of psychology at the University of Bamberg in Germany, has found that “lower accuracy and lower confidence in one’s own assessment of… emotions [displayed during ones mask use] indicate that [observers’] emotional reading was strongly irritated by the presence of a mask.” The study “further detected specific confusion patterns, mostly pronounced in the case of misinterpreting disgusted faces as being angry plus assessing many other emotions (e.g., happy, sad, and angry) as neutral.”

Many meeting attendees bemoaned the disruption to clear communication that they believe mask wearing causes.

“The mandatory mouth mandate in schools is a major threat to a child’s development,” a woman identifying herself as Chris from Kentwood, said to those at the meeting. “The well-being of children and young people is highly dependent on the emotional connection with others.”

County commissioners voicing skepticism toward a mask mandate included Republicans Tom Antor (District 2), Board Chair Mandy Bolter (District 5) and Emily P. Brieve (District 10). 

“If the science is this concrete, if there’s no wiggle room, if this is absolutely the only way this could’ve gone based on your opinion, why is it that so many other health departments around the state and around the country are doing just the opposite?” Antor said to London. “hey’re not mandating.” 

Antor said he was stunned by London’s decision and otherwise considers him an exemplary public-health official.

Among other elected leaders who attended the meeting was Heidi Reed, president of the Cedar Springs Public School Board, who read from an email she received from a parent in her district: “Please fight for our children. Fight for our children’s rights. The children K-through-sixth-grade are the smallest voices in our community. They are silenced. These children are in the least danger of the virus with a 99-percent survival rate. Masks need to be a choice.”

Others also noted that COVID death figures in Michigan are low and that very few deaths have occurred in children. While the seven-day moving average of new Michigan coronavirus cases has risen above 2,000, the average number of deaths in a day since late June has not risen above 16 and has been in the single digits for most of that time, according to the data aggregator worldometers.info.

“I hope you look at all of these pissed-off, voting, mama bears in this room; I hope you take note,” Elizabeth Johnson of Cedar Springs told the crowd, receiving loud cheers. She noted that deaths in children from the new delta variant of COVID-19 are extremely rare.

A number of those who spoke at the commissioners meeting questioned the scientific rigor behind mask mandates. And while many doctors and scientists have come out for mask usage during the pandemic, some reports have lately come out questioning the efficacy of some masks, disposable surgical masks in particular. 

A recent University of Waterloo study has found that the popular surgical masks are only 10-percent effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. The study suggests people wear the far less comfortable N95 masks, 

“Government bureaucrats are now dictating mandates on us with absolutely zero science or data to back them up,” Tammy Clark of Rockford, executive director of the grassroots group Stand Up Michigan, told London and the commissioners. Clark said she was drawing upon her own experience as an expert in occupational safety and health who tests personal protective equipment for a living.

Chris Warren, a father of two children in Grandville Public Schools, mentioned that two students in that district recently experienced extreme overheat while wearing masks inside a bus whose interior was, he said, 128 degrees Fahrenheit. He said that once a local Christian school has openings, his children will be going there instead of public school.

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Bradley Vasoli is a reporter at The Michigan Star and The Star News Network. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to bradvasoliwriter@gmail.com.