Last week the board for my local school district met and the main topic on the agenda was the matter of whether students, teachers and staff would be required to wear masks. The board gave a great deal of time to public comments, and many parents took advantage of the opportunity. Except for one parent, all of the comments were in favor of giving parents the choice of having their children wear face coverings.
In my comments to the board, I said that it has the responsibility to consider more than just the risk of COVID infection among children when fulfilling its role to provide for their education, and I thought it should be a parent’s choice to decide whether his or her child should wear a mask at school. I also challenged parents who argued for choice to think about whether they were doing it for their kids’ sake or whether they were making a political statement. I’ve since received emails from constituents who wanted to know why I spoke out as I did.
I think it’s important to point out that all flu viruses are coronaviruses, which are very adaptable and prone to mutation. However, it’s also true that as they mutate and may become more contagious than the original virus, statistics are showing that the virus is not more dangerous or likely to kill you. No vaccine is 100% effective, and if you’re vaccinated and are exposed to it, you may get infected. These symptoms are usually mild, manageable, and pass within a day or two. This was the case with the later mutations of Spanish Flu in 1918, the “swine flu”, and will be true of COVID-19. The virus will, as was pointed out in The Great Influenza, “revert to the mean” and become another flu for which vaccines will be developed and which will be another risk that we as a society will take in stride.
We also have to compare COVID’s danger to children with other dangers. In the United States, extraordinarily tiny fractions of children have died among the millions who have gotten sick. The risk is not zero, and while every death is tragic, we make judgments all the time about acceptable and non-acceptable risks. Every year we go through “flu season” without shutting down schools or resorting to other universal restrictive behaviors. Deaths in automobile accidents could possibly be preventable but trying to stop them all would require rules and enforcement mechanisms that society wouldn’t put up with. How do we measure the harmful effects of what we’re doing to our kids, from isolation to the fear of basic human contact that accompanies the demands of grownups who want to make the world absolutely safe? Those have to be factored in, as well.
Before the board made its decision, it was announced that just that day, the CDC had issued new guidelines that, because of the rapid spread of the “Delta” variant to the COVID-19 virus, it was recommending that masks be worn indoors, even by those who’d been vaccinated. This announcement was quickly followed by a letter from the district’s insurance carrier that unless this new guidance was followed, the district could lose its coverage, so the decision was put off until next Tuesday. Such is the litigious world in which we live.
My personal take is that the CDC is being pulled from one side to the other by competing interests which go beyond the need to keep the pandemic from coming back. Otherwise, why make so many inconsistent pronouncements in such short order? This Federal action trickles down to the local level in demonstrable ways such as whether to mask or not. Besides, I certainly don’t want to set a precedent that every time a new variant arises we all go back into lockdown. Nor does this serve to inspire confidence in our public health system. Those who are hesitant to get the vaccine are going to be less likely to do so if they think that even if they do get it, some bureaucrat is going to say that masks are still going to be required.
That’s not to say that people shouldn’t get vaccinated. The evidence is mounting that the vast majority of new infections is coming from those who haven’t been given the vaccine. I’m not going to ask you to prove to me or anyone else that you’ve done it, but I’m more than a little annoyed that there are some out there who ride on the backs of those who’ve taken the vaccine with the hope that enough will take it to get us to full herd immunity without their cooperation. You aren’t proving anything to anybody and all you’re doing is helping the government slow-walk the process. Regardless of your objections, this thing will be over a lot sooner if you just go out and get the shot, so step up and take one for the team.
Of course, there’s no accounting for the hysteria that can be stoked by breathless media reports of possible outbreaks at events where 90% of the participants showed proof of vaccination and another 8% showed proof of a recent negative test. Setting aside for the moment the slippery slope that may come by requiring proof of vaccination for entry, it seems that some people just don’t want our national nightmare to be over.
Finally, it’s long past time for our Governor to stop hiding behind his pronouncements that he’s “following the science”. His original justification for shutting down the State was to take the pressure off of hospital emergency rooms, and it made sense, but unless we start seeing much higher demand on bed capacity, the fact that the Federal government can’t get its act together is justification enough to open up both our economy and our schools.
Published by Steve Reick
August 1, 2021