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Father of a child with cystic fibrosis believes kids can handle wearing masks

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One of the things that’s going to be crucial to keeping schools open is for kids to be able to adapt to the new reality, including wearing masks, washing their hands, and being respectful of not getting too close to others. Some parents are concerned about this and worry there’s no way that, for example, kindergarten students will have the discipline to wear a mask and wash their hands.

McKay Allen is the father of a child with cystic fibrosis in Salt Lake City, and recently posted on Facebook about his experience, which resonated with many. He believes that children will be able to handle it since his son has long had to live this way before coronavirus.

“There’s a lot of good treatments that have extended life expectancy (for cystic fibrosis), but it’s still an extremely serious disease that shortens life. And so we have to be really careful now. He doesn’t get sick easier. He doesn’t have an immuno-compromised situation. But when he does get sick, his lungs clear out mucus and gunk. And so he’s really susceptible to lung infections,” Allen told Seattle’s Morning News on KIRO Radio.

Last year, Allen’s son spent weeks in the hospital due to sicknesses, and his parents pulled him out of school for a long stretch in winter because the cold and flu season was so bad.

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“So last year for kindergarten, we said, ‘Listen, if you’re going to go to kindergarten, you have to wear a mask.’ He was like, ‘OK,’ so he wore a mask every single day of kindergarten last year, and we spoke to the teachers who were extraordinarily accommodating and allowed him to sit kind of in a separate corner just a little bit away from the class, the phrase we now know as social distancing.”

Allen’s son would wipe down his desk, didn’t share supplies, and if another student in the class was sick, Allen would sometimes pull his son from the class to be safe until the other child recovered. Much of it worked. He’s going on 14 months now without a hospitalization. So how does Allen think this all applies to the current situation we find ourselves in?

“There’s a ton of fretting with ‘Oh man, can my little kid wear a mask? He’s gonna mess with it all day.’ Very real, practical stuff. We found that’s just not true. He is now to the point where he doesn’t even realize he’s wearing a mask. So the first couple of weeks of the school year, is your kid going to fight you on this? Yes, 100% … but then it becomes just part of life,” Allen said.

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“Your kids will have the attitude about this that you have. And if you say, ‘Look, this is awesome. We got to do this so we can go back to school,’ … they’ll appreciate it and will be positive about it. If you think it’s stupid and you’re treating it like it’s stupid, they’re going to have a bad attitude, and will take it off, and the teacher will have to continually remind them, and it’ll be miserable for everybody.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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