I listened last week to multiple districts (15 of 17 districts in our local UI) decide to make masking voluntary in their district buildings. Despite CDC recommendations that masks should be worn regardless of immunization status, despite encouragement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (70,000 member pediatric physicians) to mask students when they return to school, our districts locals have ignored the wisdom of experts putting thousands of young people at risk. It’s not even just young people at risk, it’s our entire community.
We live in a unique region where there is a lot of cross-border traffic. So while looking at the Montour County numbers or the Columbia County numbers is helpful, the fact remains that there is cross-county contamination. Therefore, looking at singular county numbers is a very short-sighted approach. Perhaps the entire UI could have come together and crafted a uniform health and safety plan to help tackle COVID-19 and the delta variant in this area. But instead, we have 17 school districts, all with some form of crossbreeding between them with 17 different plans.
Why the districts did not mandate the masks is a mystery to me. Maybe they didn’t want to face the reaction of the parents. Maybe they’re just sick and tired of COVID and think they can just wish it. But in many cases, the reason the district didn’t require the masks was because they couldn’t control the wearing of masks.
It seems rather odd, as the masks are quite noticeable when worn correctly. It would be obvious at first glance whether or not a student was wearing a mask. But yet, districts said they couldn’t control this even when they were monitoring short length, wording on T-shirts, or if a student’s (female) T-shirt was too low. All of these cases take much longer to notice than whether a mask is worn correctly or not.
Why am I so pro-mask? First, it’s simple, my mask (and vaccine) protects you, and your mask (and vaccine) protects me. I care about others. Second, I want my kids (and all kids) to go to school as much as possible this year. Third, are masks really that bad? I mean no one can see if I have food in my teeth, I don’t have to worry about my coffee breath. And finally, I can make all the faces and stick my tongue out and no one can see it. So seriously, people just wear the mask.
If masks were needed, only the exposed person should be quarantined. Since this is not the case, our teachers who already wear the hats of teacher, social worker, friend, etc., now also become contact tracers. Who wore a mask today, who didn’t wear a mask today? Then, once this is understood, they can decide who should and should not stay home from school and for how long. Oh, wait. There is more. Have any of these children been vaccinated? Oh two were but one was not but he was wearing a mask but the exposed student was not masked so now the exposed student and the unmasked unvaccinated student need to be quarantined, but the two unmasked and vaccinated students are “safe”. Phew!
It’s a lot of work. Now imagine that 5, 10, 15 to 20 times in the next few weeks. Instead of focusing on education, our student districts can now be overwhelmed with contact tracing. All because no one wants to take a stand and make masks mandatory.
So wait folks this year could be a roller coaster and we haven’t even discussed the chaos that will ensue when we have a teacher quarantined and no replacements available. But go ahead, refuse this vaccine. Keep telling me how the microparticles get through my mask anyway. Explain again that prolonged use of a mask can lead to a decrease in O2 sats. Don’t wear this mask and next year we might be looking at the same issue. But hey, the third time, it’s the charm, right?
Heather Hackenberg lives in Danville.