Ochsner Donates 20,000 ‘Windowed’ Masks to Schools

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NEW ORLEANS – Ochsner Health has donated 20,000 “windowed” masks to schools across Louisiana. 

“Recognizing and connecting with facial expressions – especially lips – is key for development in children as they learn to express themselves. The windowed masks enable the wearer to still maintain proper masking in accordance with CDC recommendations, while removing a potential communication barrier,” said Lacey Ellis, PhD, program director, Ochsner Hospital for Children’s Michael R. Boh Center for Child Development.

Concepted and designed by the Ochsner iO team in collaboration with a local New Orleans designer in Spring 2020, the windowed masks were first field tested by speech pathologists in the neonatal intensive care unit at Ochsner Baptist to help Ochsner’s tiniest patients begin to recognize facial features, a critical developmental milestone. Following that trial period, the Ochsner team explored other avenues to leverage this new type of mask – both in healthcare and non-healthcare settings like schools.

“Just like healthcare workers seek to foster a connection with their patients, teachers rely on their facial expressions and lips when teaching critical skills such as phonics and foreign language or engaging with children with speech and language development challenges,” said William Lennarz, MD, system chair of pediatrics, Ochsner Hospital for Children. “With this donation, we hope to provide support for the impactful work teachers perform each and every day, ultimately contributing to a classroom environment in which every student, faculty and staff member can thrive and learn together.”