Science teacher on mask mandate in Broward: ‘Risks are way too high; inconvenience is minimal’

NORTH LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Edward “Ed” Farrell said he felt a sense of relief when he learned the School Board of Broward County decided to mandate face masks again when students return to class for the 2021-22 school year on Aug. 18.

Farrell is a Broward County Public Schools teacher at Silver Lakes Middle School in North Lauderdale. As an active member of the Broward Teachers Union, he has been a supporter of the face mask mandates during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Masks are unfortunately necessary,” said Farrell, who has been teaching science for about 16 years. “We have to do everything that’s available to reduce transmission.”

Given the new evidence on the more contagious Delta variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated the guidance for fully vaccinated people to recommend universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.

“The risks are way too high, way too high and the inconvenience is minimal,” Farrell, 63, said.

Even more critical is the rare incidence of new cases of people who are getting infected despite having received the two-dose vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna, which are 95% effective, or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson, which is 72% effective.

Doctors in South Florida agree the data shows the vaccines have helped to reduce patients’ symptoms and the majority of the COVID patients who are dying are unvaccinated.

The Delta variant is spreading in South Florida, so aside from recommending the vaccines, public health officials have also prompted face mask mandates to return.

Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert with Florida International University, said the science on the effectiveness of face masks as the Delta variant spreads is unequivocal.

Marty also said face mask use reduces the number of viral particles, therefore, reducing transmission, so this is important in classrooms as more young people are ending up in hospitals.

“The science right now with the Delta variant shows very high viral loads in all ages including children,” Marty said. “This is a matter of statistics and numbers and real hard positive data that we want to keep the children and the environment safe and keep the kids in class.”

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About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.