Some school districts lead on school mask policy

Isn’t this the most fundamental question in dealing with the COVID-19 virus in Washington County: shouldn’t our anti-virus policies be grounded in the protection of our children?

Adults make their decisions about their own protection, but kids are dependent on decisions of their parents and elders who have the power to make calls that deeply affect their lives.

How can those elders not be hyper-protective when sending children to schools?

As we all know and what some adults don’t accept, vaccinations are the best defense against the virus illness, with mask wearing as the next best option, and frequent testing third. Washington County has more than its share of ideological conservatives, so it highly unlikely that any local official in this county will have the guts to require vaccines in places like schools where children are present.

But a good number of school boards in Wisconsin have acted like responsible adults by requiring masks at a time when the delta variant is pushing infections to heartbreaking higher levels.

The parent in those districts are greatly relieved, because they can send their kids to schools with at least one layer of protection. An option without masking requirements is to keep their kids at home for on-line education, which has proven to be ineffective for most children. They are losing out on their education, one of the biggest factors for having a successful life.

They are also losing out on their social-emotional development at a critical time in their growth.

Wearing masks is a frustrating experience. I hate it. Yet we did it in 2020 as the initial COVID epidemic ramped up. Why can’t we do it again until we control the delta variant outbreak.

Why are the ideologues so adamant about what they see as the constitutional rights of the individual to govern decisions about their own bodies? There is a time when their overzealous defense of principle must give way to pragmatic solutions for the common good.

When they say, “I have a ‘constitutional’ right not to be vaccinated or wear masks,” they are also saying “I have a right to spread the infection to other people.” Their stance, in my view, is not patriotic; it is unpatriotic and un-American.

Back to the children: the school boards in Washington County need to revisit their mask policies as children return to school. The school boards in Green Bay and Appleton have reversed their previous plans and will require masks for all students and staff regardless of vaccination status. Districts in Oshkosh, Manitowoc, Neenah and Kimberly have done the same.

I would go further and require vaccinations of all adults in the schools who are in proximity of our children, just as most hospitals do to protect patients.

The federal government is pushing hard for a children’s vaccine that would provide for better protections than masks, and that effort needs to be accelerated, much as President Trump’s Warp Speed initiative accelerated the production of the COVID vaccine.

My wife and I grew up in polio epidemics in the 1940s and 1950s and remember the quarantine. Some of our friends and family members contracted the polio virus and lived months in iron lungs. They lived, but were partly disabled.

Then the Salk vaccine was developed and vaccinations were administered starting in 1955. Citizens flocked to get their children vaccinated.

The overriding fear in the country lifted. Thanks to the widespread use of polio vaccine, the United States has been polio-free since 1979.

Today all states have vaccination requirements for children to attend school. Most school requirements adhere to the CDC’s vaccination schedule for children, including Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis, Measles, Mumps, and Rubella, Hepatitis B, and Chickenpox in order to enter kindergarten. The spread of those viruses was stopped cold.

Note: The recent surge is largely fueled by the highly contagious delta variant among people who are not vaccinated.

Both Pfizer and Moderna are conducting vaccine trials in children between the ages of six months and 11 years old. Experts expect young children to have access to the COVID-19 by this fall or mid-winter.

In the interim, is it too much to ask they we base our policies on protection of our children by the relatively simple wearing of a mask?

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