Children should return to their normal lives without masks and regardless of their vaccination status.

Covid-19 cases are decreasing in the United States, and masks are no longer required everywhere. Still, the pandemic is not over — and won’t be until younger children can also be vaccinated, epidemiologists said in a new survey by The New York Times.

The true end of the pandemic — when it becomes safer to return to most activities without precautions — will arrive once at least 70 percent of Americans of all ages are vaccinated, they said. Adolescents just began receiving vaccines this week, and those for children younger than 12 are not yet approved.

“Children are key to ending the pandemic,” said David Celentano, the chair of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University and one of the 723 epidemiologists who participated in the survey this month.

The mask mandates are especially cruel to young children. Adults are supposed to ease their fears, to reassure them that monsters aren’t hiding under the bed. Instead, we’re frightening them into believing they’re being stalked by invisible menaces lurking in the air. A year of mask-wearing will scar some of them psychologically — and maybe physically, too, according to a team of Italian professors of plastic surgery, who warn that the prolonged pressure from the elastic straps could leave young children with permanently protruding ears. By hiding teachers’ lips and muffling their speech, mask-wearing makes it harder for young children to develop linguistic skills and prevents children with hearing impairments from lip reading. Unable to rely on facial cues, teachers and students of all ages are more likely to misinterpret one other, a particularly acute problem for children on the autism spectrum. How are children supposed to develop social skills when they can’t see one another’s faces, sit together, or play together?

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