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'If you don't think masks work, you are ignorant' | Area doctors attend virtual town hall addressing COVID-19 impact on kids

Four Jacksonville area doctors attended the town hall that was co-hosted by the Duval Schools Pandemic Solutions Team and the Population Health Consortium.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Mask mandates and keeping kids away from those who are not vaccinated were some of the topics of a virtual town hall between doctors and parents Monday night.

Both are hot-button issues as the largest school district on the First Coast, Duval County Public Schools is back in session next week.  The town hall focused on how COVID-19 could have long-term effects on children. 

"The impact of this virus could be impacting their children along their entire lifespan," said Dr. Jeffrey Goldhagen.

RELATED: Webinar to discuss effects of COVID-19 on children, call for mask mandate in schools

Goldhagen is a professor and chief of the Division of Community and Societal Pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine-Jacksonville.

He made a bold claim, and it's one he says parents need to pay attention to. He even suggested children shouldn't be around those who aren't vaccinated. 

"Don't let your kids be in contact with adults who are not vaccinated," he said.

RELATED: Duval Schools logs over 200 COVID cases among students, faculty and staff over summer break

Dr. Goldhagen is an advocate for a vaccine mandate for all school employees, while also pushing for mandatory masks for children.

He wants school boards to bypass Governor Ron DeSantis' recent executive order which bars schools from forcing students to wear them.

"To actually say that the reason is because kids need to be able to smile, I will take a healthy child who has maybe a little less of a smile I hope not another year, but for another year, if I know I might be protecting that child 40, 50 years from now," said Dr. Bethany Atkins of Northeast Florida Pediatric Society.

All the doctors say getting the vaccine will better protect you against the virus, but it is not fully safe-proof.  They encourage pregnant women to get the shot and point to the success the virus has had on the elderly as a reason for younger people to do the same.

RELATED: No, people who recovered from COVID-19 are not completely immune to the virus

"The elderly are not at the hospital. They are not dying over it now, right? I just don't understand when it's the other end?" said Dr. Mobeen Rathore, a professor and Associate Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Florida.

If you would like to watch the presentation, click here.