BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Maryland State Board of Education met for nearly five hours Tuesday hearing from parents, students, teachers and medical experts on its masking mandate.

The board will revisit the mask mandate in early December, according to board chair Clarence Crawford. The mandate is set to expire on Feb. 25.

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“Now that we have these life-saving vaccines that not only reduce the risk of disease in the vaccine recipient, but also reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to someone else, it’s really time to think about removing a medical intervention,” Dr. Lucy McBride said. “Kids are generally at low risk.”

Dr. McBride and other medical experts stressed the importance of vaccinations and giving kids time to their shots.

“My one opinion answer for the off-ramp, it is the vaccine,” Dr. Monique Soileau-Burke of the American Academy of Pediatrics said.

Dr. Soileau-Burke said demand is outweighing the pediatric vaccine supply, so it will be some time before all children whose parents want a vaccine can get one.

“Now is not the time to step back from prevention strategies when children are still at risk,” Worcester Co. parent Raymond Russell said Tuesday.

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The Maryland Department of Health says children under 10 accounted for 6 percent of COVID-19 cases at the beginning of 2021. The age group is 14 to 15 percent of new cases recently, according to Deputy Health Secretary Dr. Jinlene Chan.

Dr. Chan cites the fact many of those children had not, until recently, been eligible for a vaccine.

Several parents advocated Tuesday for the state school board to lift its mask mandate.

“It doesn’t matter how many degrees someone has, what their expertise is in medical matters, they are still not qualified to determine what is best for our children,” Margaret Barnes said.

Carroll County School Board member Marsha Herbert urged the state board to lift its mandate.

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“We know the vaccine is highly effective in preventing severe illness,” Herbert said. “We know there will be breakthrough cases. But, that allows us for an offramp.”

Paul Gessler