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CHKD doctor weighs in on new law ending school mask mandates in Virginia

Dr. Douglas Mitchell said it's best for children to continue the best practices to prevent COVID-19 which includes getting a vaccine and wearing a mask.

NORFOLK, Va. — After a month in office, Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin signed a bill into law ending school mask mandates in Virginia. It’s one of his day-one promises. 

But does this law come too soon?

“We’re not completely out of the woods in the risk to children," said pediatrician Dr. Douglas Mitchell. "So, continuing best practices is the best advice.”

Dr. Mitchell is the director of CHKD Medical Group and a pediatrician at Norfolk Pediatrics. He said those best practices include getting the COVID-19 vaccine and wearing a mask.

“The vaccines do what we predicted and show that it prevents severe infection and prevents hospitalization amongst all people," Dr. Mitchell said. "The data are very clear. Masking helps prevent transmission.”

Although cases are dropping following a spike in January, he said COVID-19 cases are still as high as they were before the surge. CHKD reported the test positivity rate reached a high of 50% mid-January. The health system reported the positivity rate dropped to 10% Wednesday.

“We are still, in the pediatric population, having a significant number of admissions to the hospital," he said. "Some of them with very ill children.”

Just last week, CHKD saw nine new hospitalizations and more than 200 positive tests throughout the health system.

Dr. Mitchell worries unmasking in schools could lead to more school outbreaks.

“You eliminate one source of mitigation," he said. "Until you can watch it over time, you’re not certain what that impact is going to be.”

He said he understands many want to move forward and ditch the mask but he doesn’t want you to let your guard down.

Dr. Mitchell said if you're concerned about the risk your child has by going mask-less, you should talk with their pediatrician.

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