By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Masks, other steps help children stay safe, doctor tells Mac school board

COVID-19 is a real threat to young people, but masks and other precautions help reduce the risk of spread, a pediatrician told the McMinnville School Board Monday night.

“It’s vital to work together in the community to keep kids in school,” Dr. Margaret "Peg" Miller said. “It’s vital to their learning and their physical and emotional health.”

She and other pediatricians want children to be able to continue going to school in-person, Miller said. Being in school, rather than online, is better academically, she said, and it reduces isolation and keeps students more physically active.

With proper safety measures, children can attend school safely, she said, especially if those who are eligible get the vaccine and “all the adults in their lives” are immunized as well.

Vaccines work, she said, by reducing the chance of contracting COVID and the severity for those who do.

“That’s absolutely the most effective way to keep safe,” Miller said.

The school district has received numerous inquiries and objections to the masking policy and other safety measures, as well as the state requirement that staff be vaccinated by Oct. 18.

Gov. Kate Brown mandated that all Oregon school districts require masks for all students and staff.

There may come a time when that mandate is lifted and individual districts will get to decide what’s best for their community, board Chairman Carson Benner said.

In that case, he said, McMinnville’s board needs “fact-based, science-based information” so it can make decisions about student safety. That’s why he invited the McMinnville doctor to speak.

“We want to keep kids in the classroom, and we keep them as safe as possible,” he said.

Miller cited information and guidance from the American Academy of Pediatricians as well as the Oregon Health Authority, Centers for Disease Control and children’s hospitals research programs.

Children and teens younger than 18 account for 26% of all COVID cases, Miller said, although that age group makes up only 22% of the population.

“COVID really does effect children,” she said, noting that 5.5 million children have been infected since the start of the pandemic in early 2020. In Oregon, children 10 or younger represent 10 percent of the state’s total number of cases.

But students under 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine, she said, adding that she is hopeful that a shot for young children will be approved soon.

About .9% of all infected children are hospitalized, she said. The COVID death rate for children is .1% overall, although those with underlying health conditions have a higher rate.

The coronavirus itself isn’t the only thing to be worried about, though, Miller said. Children’s hospitals have reported an earlier start of serious respiratory illness this year; usually they start seeing cases in October, but this year cases began in August.

In addition, many youngsters who contract COVID continue to suffer after they recover from the initial infection, Miller said.

They may show the same “long COVID” symptoms as adults, such as “brain fog” similar to the learning difficulties that can follow a concussion, she said. “It seems to resolve over time, but it’s not minor,” she said.

Children may contract myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle. Or they may have complications from “multi-system inflammatory disease,” which causes prolonged, serious cardiovascular symptoms and other problems.

“There’s a long recovery and it usually requires hospitalization,” she said of multi-system inflammatory disease.

There are ways to reduce the risk of getting COVID and its side effects, Miller said.

Masks are a primary defense: The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) recommends masks for everyone 2 years old and older.

Masks are not dangerous, she said, citing peer-reviewed studies that show they don’t impair breathing or increase a wearer’s carbon dioxide level.

“The data is clear: Masks are safe for kids. Children tolerate masks well, and masks reduce transmission,” she said.

If parents present mask wearing as normal, she said, children will think of it that way as well. Parents need to be educated, she said, and if they have questions or concerns, they should talk to their own pediatricians or family doctors.

AAP also recommends frequent handwashing and use of hand sanitizer, physical distancing of at least 3 feet, regular cleaning of surfaces, COVID testing and tracing, and disclosing illness so cases can be isolated — all guidelines McMinnville schools are following.

Those measures “will decrease the spread in school,” Miller said.

She cautioned that it’s likely that there will be at least some cases among students, though.

“But with joint effort between families, schools, medical people and the community, with testing and quarantining,” she said, “we can keep kids in schools.”

McMinnville School District also offers COVID information on its website, Look for the “COVID Dashboard.”



Maskless children are in school all over "Red" States, where it's only "recommended," not mandated. They are doing just fine. Where did all the PRO-Choice "Its my body my choice" abortion supporters go? Per Oregon-OSHA, guests and customers are no longer required to wear masks. That's why nobody is refusing service to mask-less people anymore.


Here is a resource guide for shop-owners regarding the mask "mandate" recommendation. Its "Oregon OSHA memo 8.13.21". Guests and customers are only to be encouraged to comply, not coerced by refusing service.

David Bates

Maskless children are not "doing just fine." Virginia alone has had more than 1,000 children hospitalized with Covid. Pay attention to the real world, please.


Wait, now this virus is attacking kids only when at the beginning it was our elderly and the most compromised. I'm confused, which is it?

Why aren't you putting the doctor's full name? Could it be because the doctor that was chosen is one that not everyone in the community has any confidence in?

Why is it the only topic being brought up is cover our faces? Have you actually seen pictures of kids in classes, they aren't the smiling faces and group pictures that every parent loves to have and show off. They are vacant stares, empty eyes and that is if you are lucky to have them look at you.

What are the other options? What about vitamins? Or are those not important any more? Washing hands? Keeping oneself clean?

I was not born to wear a mask and neither were my children. If they were then nature would have provided one naturally. It's called washing your hands, keeping your cooties to yourself and sneezing in your armpit or elbow. Common sense has shot right out the window.

Bill B

All I can say to these comments (other than David Bates) is Wow! just wow!


So you and your kids wear clothes? put on a coat when it gets cold right?....your logic is flawed.


David. Mask are required for K-12 in Virginia. See below.

"Masks in Virginia PreK-12 Schools Masks are required regardless of vaccination status As of August 12, 2021, a Public Health Order requires all individuals aged two and older to wear masks when indoors at public and private K-12 schools., regardless of vaccination status. The Order also applies to Pre-K if the program is at a K-12 school."

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