The politicization of COVID puts every unvaccinated child under 12 at risk of becoming infected (or worse) with the virus and its variants. A lengthy thread of comments on Twitter came after President Joe Biden’s announcement that he instructed Dr. Miquel Cardena, the Secretary of Education, “to take action against governors who have banned universal masking in public schools,” according to KHN Morning Briefing on Aug. 19, 2021.
Governors Doug Ducey of Arizona, Greg Abbott of Texas, Rick DeSantis of Florida, Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma, Henry McMaster of South Carolina, Bill Lee of Tennessee, and Spencer Cox of Utah have banned public schools from mandating masks. Each received notice from Cardena explaining that intimidation, threats, withholding salaries, and financial assistance from school districts that defy the governors’ “no mask mandate” directive would be subject to a civil rights violation investigation. Meanwhile, the children are pawns in this game between politicians.
Last spring, when the COVID pandemic overwhelmed the country, most schools turned to virtual learning, of which teachers and students were ill-prepared. As a result, most youngsters spent the year without access to their peers, a vital part of the maturation process.
Moreover, studies reveal that virtually taught children suffered academically compared to those who attended in-person classes. However, not all of the data is in, and some administrators fear they will not fully account for virtual learner’s achievements.
Nonetheless, there is little doubt that kids need to return to full-time in-person learning. But, at what cost? The COVID-19 Delta variant infects more children than any previous strain, prompting the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control to release updated masking guidelines on August 5.
Logically, the first step to a safe return to in-classroom education is to have everyone 12, and older vaccinated against COVID-19. Unfortunately, only 51 percent of eligible adults are protected with a vaccine.
CDC recommends universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.
Parents Are Concerned for Their Youngsters’ Well-Being
Parents in states with legislators and governors who refuse to impose mask mandates are rightfully concerned.
Only Florida has a vaccination rate of at least 50 percent among the states listed above, as of August 19.
The other states have fewer fully vaccinated adults: Arizona, 46.63; Utah, 46.23; Texas, 45.55; South Carolina, 41.87; Oklahoma, 41.81; and Tennessee, 39.74 percent.
On Twitter, moms expressed their angst over sending their kids back to school without mask requirements in place. For example, Lisa posted on August 18:
Too late for my kids. Schools in OK opened last week, masks optional. My kids wore KN95 and already I’m taking my 8 yr old with Special Needs for a Covid test in the am. He was exposed after 4 days in school and now has symptoms. Furious!!
Anna-Kate Mathis wrote that her three young children were starting school on August 19 in Abilene, Texas. She complained about the parent-teachers night on the 17th, where less than five percent of those present wore masks. The young mom added:
At our school: masks optional, no contact tracing, quarantine optional if exposed. I am terrified for my kids. I feel so helpless.
Twitter user @renurish posted a message of sympathy and support in response to Mathis’ statement: “I’m so sorry. It isn’t fair. It’s politics over science. Our kids are innocent. We have to protect them, not throw them into a battle. Have you thought of home school if possible?”
In response, Mathis wrote:
Homeschool is definitely on the table. My husband and I both work but I’m prepared to quit if I have to. Won’t be easy with one income but we will do what we have to do to keep our kids safe.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
The Washington Post: The Biden administration will use a federal civil rights office to deter states from banning masks in classrooms; by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Erica L. Green
The Washington Post: Biden orders Education Department to take action against governors who ban school mask mandates; by Valerie Strauss
AP: States banning mask mandates could face civil rights probes; by Collin Binkley
NBC News: Biden says his administration will take on GOP governors blocking masks in schools; by Shannon Pettypeice, Lauren Egan, and Monica Alba
Newsweek: School Face Mask Mandates Have Been Reintroduced in These States Amid Delta Surge; by James Crump
CDC: Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Rajesh Pamnani’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Governor Tom Wolf’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License