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Biden Health Secretary Defends Forcing 2-Year-Olds To Be Masked During COVID-19 Pandemic

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra defended a policy overseen by his department that required 2-year-olds to wear masks through the COVID-19 pandemic during a Tuesday House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing.

Republican California Rep. Kevin Kiley asked Becerra what the benefits were of a mask mandate on 2-year-olds put in place by Head Start, a national government run program to provide toddlers of low-income families school readiness. Becerra defended the decision, saying that  taking necessary precautions was essential to saving lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Mr. Secretary, did forcing 2-year-olds to wear masks save lives?” Kiley asked.

“Making sure people were masked when it was appropriate was essential to making sure we were able to get out of this pandemic,” Becerra responded.

Until several months into 2022, Head Start, which is under the Department of Health and Human Services, required not only staff of the program, but children as young as 2-years-old to wear a mask at all times, even if outside. In May 2023, Becerra removed the regulatory vaccine requirement and weekly testing requirement for all Head Start staff, according to a press release.

“Right now, can you point to any evidence that there was a public health benefit to forcing young children to wear masks?” Kiley asked Becerra at the hearing.

“Well the fact that today we are not losing lives the way we lost them when we first got into this pandemic,” Becerra responded before Kiley cut his answer short, asking if lives were saved because 2-year-olds were required to wear masks.

“That’s your interpretation,” Becerra responded. “What I’m saying to you is that using good policies that give us the precautions to keep our families from contracting COVID are helping save lives.”

In April, a Texas federal judge halted the Head Start program which required 2-year-olds to wear masks, ruling that the HHS had no authority to impose such mandate. The mask and COVID-19 vaccine mandates caused Head Start directors to suffer staff and students  shortages.

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