We’ve learned so much and apparently so little since the onset of the pandemic.
One of the hardest learned lessons while the Trump administration frittered away valuable time last year as the new coronavirus infiltrated the county, was how preventing the virus was eminently more valuable to all of us than just focusing on treating those who became infected with it.
Just as important was learning that small, relatively easy things we could do as a nation and a community to prevent virus transmission were far, far preferable to difficult things needed to keep from overwhelming the health care system, resulting in masses of people dying in hospital parking lots.
Washing your hands. Covering your mouth and nose. Standing six feet apart. That’s easy stuff. And the science, from here and around the world, has been inarguable that those three simple things can greatly reduce the incidence of coronavirus infection.
And we all know for certain that donning a mask inside is infinitely less taxing and damaging than closing restaurants, gyms or schools or shoving a ventilator tube down your throat.
In asking a whole lot of medical experts and health care professionals last fall what, more than anything, they lamented about how the nation managed the pandemic, a recurring answer was that we didn’t start mandating the use of masks early enough or well enough.
The logic was always the same. We missed a chance to do a very simple, easy and effective thing to prevent the spread of the virus, which then resulted in having to do things that have cost people their lives, their livelihoods and their wellbeing.
If you ask any Colorado school district leader what the most important thing for students is going into this next school year, every one of them would agree that the priority is to keep kids in schools, inside classrooms.
Given those simple and easy to understand facts, why in the hell aren’t school district officials all jumping at the chance to make masks mandatory inside schools?
With every single pandemic light flashing red on the Colorado dashboard, this is not the time for school districts like Cherry Creek, APS, Douglas County and others to put the pedal to the metal and wish us all good luck with that, folks.
Local school districts wire themselves into local health departments to make the hard but defensible decisions about the pandemic. And the health department overseeing local schools in Aurora and Douglas County is the Tri-County Health Department. And what do they say?
“Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas Counties, like counties across the state, are at a “Substantial Risk” for community transmission,” Dr. John Douglas, chief of Tri-County Health Department, told local school officials in a recent letter. “In alignment with CDC’s updated guidance, Tri-County Health Department is now recommending that all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask in indoor public places, including teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools.”
The key word here? “Recommending.”
Here’s how that works. If your favorite thing to do every night is sit on the couch, watch TV and eat bag after bag of potato chips until you weigh so much you can’t very well get off the couch, and you go see Dr. Douglas, or any physician, he, or they, will “recommend” you get off the couch and put down the chips. Along the way, a doc will explain to you all the dismal ways you’re very likely to get to the end of your life before you get the bottom of another bag of chips.
You don’t have to get off the couch or put down the Pringles can, as patriots like Colorado GOP Congressperson Lauren Boebert regular points out, it’s a free country, but you will almost certainly get sick and die if you don’t.
Dr. Douglas had more to say on his “recommendation.”
“The implementation of mitigation strategies are especially important given the proliferation of the much more transmissible Delta Variant, with data showing that asymptomatic vaccinated people can still carry and spread the disease to others, potentially as readily as unvaccinated persons” Dr. Douglas wrote.
“ As such, (Tri-County) urges the implementation of universal masking policies in schools as an effective mitigation strategy to support safe in-person learning with limited interruption due to cases and outbreaks”
He said the masking warning is not a requirement, yet, but it’s “ a strong science-based recommendation.” He “URGES” (nudge, nudge) a mandate.
If this sounds similar to the words a lot of government officials have come to regret about masking when the pandemic first started, they are.
A host of area pediatricians and other health professionals have confronted Cherry Creek schools about their preclusion of a mask mandate, especially in lower grades where children under 12 are ineligible for vaccination.
In a fiery letter from 81 doctors, all with children in Cherry Creek schools, physicians criticized Superintendent Chris Smith for asking but not telling parents to mask up their children, especially in lower grades where they’re all unvaccinated, according to The Denver Post.
“Without mask mandates, you are ensuring a COVID outbreak in your schools where vaccination rates are not optimal.”
If that sounds like, “If you don’t get off your butt and eat better, horrible things await you,” it is.
• the need for masks is proven and great
• it is one of the simplest and cheapest things we can do to keep children safe and uninfected, and unable to infect their families at home
• school officials and others agree, we have to keep schools open
• even shoes are a safety requirement in schools
Given all that, who doesn’t want a mask mandate for schools?
Welcome, Exhibit A:
“A mandate of masks feels isolating,” parent Emily Lewis, told school board members Monday. She wasn’t alone as a parade of parents came in to say masks are hard and even unpatriotic. “It’s hard to make new friends when half of their face is covered.”
It’s far harder to make friends when schools are closed or potential chums can’t play because they or everyone at home is suffering from COVID-19.
For the love of what’s left of reality in this post-Trump world, it is a full-on pandemic, people. It’s a real-honest-to-God-millions-are-dead-more-millions-are-sick-economies-have-been-ruined-this-stuff-can-kill-you-Florida-is-about-to-have-an-apocalypse-pandemic.
Throw caution to the wind and mandate masks in schools on a crazy whim that you might save a few dozen lives and critical education for tens of thousands of children. Science and the adults in the room have your back.
Dr. Douglas has given school superintendent’s the green light for a mandate with his “recommendation-cum-urging.”
Green means go.
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