The Dangerous Rejection of School Mask Mandates
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!" "Here I am," he replied. Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, whom you love -- Isaac -- and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain that I will show you."
-- Genesis 22:1-2
Abraham, according to the Bible, was willing to do as God commanded, but at the last minute, Isaac won a divine reprieve. That option is not likely to save the many American children who are being offered up by parents and elected officials determined to defy science and public health experts.
Those under age 12 are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that, to prevent transmission of this disease, schools require face coverings for everyone attending in-person classes. But that guidance has provoked widespread resistance.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has banned school mask mandates and briefly threatened to withhold the salaries of school superintendents and school board members who impose them. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order says "no student, teacher, parent, or other staff member or visitor can be required to wear a mask while on campus." Arizona, South Carolina, Utah, Iowa and Oklahoma have followed suit.
If these state officials have their way, millions of children will return to classrooms without the protection of universal masking -- just as COVID-19 is mounting a comeback. The surge is particularly pronounced among children. And it is proving more dangerous than previous forms of the disease.
At Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, reported NBC News, the number of patients has more than tripled. Contributing to the crisis is the spread of a flulike illness, known as respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, that usually peaks in winter and disproportionately affects kids.
Heather Haq, a pediatrician there, wrote on her blog, "I worry that we will run out of beds and staff to handle the surge upon surge."
Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock said it had 10 kids in the intensive care unit and five on ventilators. At Wolfson Children's Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, the number of admissions in July was quadruple that of June.
The importance of getting children back into schools is not in dispute. Fortunately, studies indicate that transmission in classrooms is low as long as masks are required.