Thirty-two Republican members of Congress have written to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asking how the agency came to its conclusion that children 2 years of age and older should wear face masks against the coronavirus when in public and around people who don’t live in their household.

The lawmakers, in their letter Thursday, asked which studies the CDC based its recommendations on. They also want to know what plans the CDC has to update its recommendations if new information is analyzed about the contracting and spread of COVID-19. The signatories also asked how the CDC is continuing to monitor the science that informs the guidance it provides on children wearing masks.

The CDC first recommended that children 2 years of age and older wear face masks in March 2020. President Joe Biden signed an executive order on his second day in office requiring that all airports, commercial aircraft, trains, intercity bus services, and other forms of public transportation comply with the CDC’s guidelines.

The seven Republican senators and 25 GOP members of the House—led by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rep. Jason Smith, R-Mo.—wrote to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky that the agency’s recommendation has led to detrimental results.

“Multiple parents of young children have been removed from flights, and in some instances, permanently banned, from future travel on the airline they were flying due to their toddler’s refusal to wear a mask,” they wrote. 

The letter writers noted that coronavirus guidelines in European countries are more lenient compared with the United States. In Switzerland, you don’t have to wear a mask if you’re under 12 years old. In Italy, you must wear a mask only if you’re more than 6 years old. Children under 11 aren’t required to wear a mask in France and the United Kingdom.

Children younger than five are 6% of the population in the United States, but account for only 2% of coronavirus cases, according to the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker. Moreover, a report from the Association of American Medical Colleges said that “[s]everal studies have found that children transmit the virus, but perhaps not as often as adults, especially in younger age groups.” 

In a November 2020 interview on ABC’s “This Week,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, “If you look at the data, the spread among children and from children is not really very big at all, not like one would have suspected.”

The GOP lawmakers’ letter concluded with a request for answers to the following questions, asking for a response from the CDC by May 6.

  • Why did the CDC set the minimum age requirement for COVID-19 mask guidelines at 2 years old?
  • What specific scientific studies did the CDC base its recommendations on?
  • What childhood developmental milestones did the CDC take into consideration when setting the minimum age requirement at 2 years old?
  • What steps is the CDC taking to track the latest scientific studies on the contraction and transmission of COVID-19 among children and the effectiveness of masks in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 by children?
  • What plans does the CDC have in place to update its recommendations on mask-wearing as new information is gained from these scientific studies about the contraction and spread of COVID-19 by children, especially young children?
  • Are you continuing to monitor the science that informs your administration’s guidance on children wearing masks? Are you willing to modify and update your current guidance?

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