NYT: Why is the Biden administration forcing masks on poor toddlers in HeadStart?

Source: Hot Air

Great question. Maybe it’s because poor toddlers aren’t likely to sue Joe Biden over  a mask mandate that even the CDC won’t support any longer. Such mandates may be passé, but they’re enforceably de rigueur at Head Start facilities, forced onto the toddlers and teacher alike even though masks won’t do a darned thing in that environment:

The Biden administration has taken credit for a relative return to normalcy in schools over the last year of the coronavirus pandemic. But in one of the few education programs the federal government directly oversees — Head Start preschools and child care centers for low-income families — mandatory masking rules are still on the books for teachers and children as young as 2-years-old.

That requirement is out of line with current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released last month, which recommend universal masking only if there is a high community transmission rate. The vast majority of schools and day care centers have made masks optional, even in the most virus-cautious regions on the country.

The strict Head Start guidelines were established last November during the surge in Delta variant infections, and they remain in place in half the states, including those throughout the Northeast and on the West Coast. In addition to universal masking, they require that Head Start staff members be vaccinated.

Even in November of last year — ten months ago, mind you — the mandate was entirely ridiculous. The science was already clear that children were not susceptible to COVID-19 and that schools did not act as vectors for increased community transmission. That data had been readily available from UK studies since June 2020, and data from states that had ended mask mandates later that year clearly demonstrated the same thing.

And that doesn’t address the ridiculous notion that toddlers can remain effectively masked in any way for more than a few minutes at a time. It was a nonsense policy by November 2021, and it’s even more absurd now.

And … the Department of Health and Human Services apparently agrees, even if they aren’t doing much about it. They told the NYT that they’re not planning to enforce it, and that it takes a long time to change the rules — but they won’t even commit to doing that:

In a written statement, the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees Head Start, acknowledged that the current guidelines contradict those of the C.D.C. but said that centers are not being checked for compliance on masking. Updating the official rules is “a lengthy process,” the statement said, which would take into consideration the C.D.C.’s evolving recommendations, the recent availability of vaccinations for children as young as 6 months and over 2,700 public comments.

As dumb an excuse as this is, it’s a great example of why HHS should never have created this rule in the first place. Now that they did promulgate it, they can’t retire it without months of red tape, a consideration that should have been made up front — especially given the contradictions to science and common sense it represented.

HHS claims to skip enforcement don’t help much, and one can understand why:

Even though the federal government has said it will not “monitor” the Head Start masking rule, centers across the country have struggled to interpret what that means in practice.

Program directors described a culture of compliance within Head Start that leaves them, they said, with little choice but to follow the guidelines strictly.

“We always choose to follow the most stringent” requirements on the books, said Amanda Worth-Colón, who works for Acelero Learning, overseeing several Head Start programs in New Jersey.

Compliance with federal rules should not be on a whimsical basis. These centers have no choice but to follow the rule as written, not on the basis of gauzy promises of non-enforcement by officials.

This is the reductio ad absurdum of a corrupt process at HHS and CDC. Their mask mandates were concessions to teachers unions, which wanted to force a continuation of remote learning even after their members got pushed to the front of the line for vaccines. Everyone knows that children aren’t at risk, and everyone knows they can’t remain effectively masked all day, especially younger children. And everyone knows that the unions and HHS don’t care one whit for the science or the children.

And apparently, neither does Joe Biden or anyone in the White House.