Opinion: 'Strongly recommended' puts students at risk this fall

Updated: Sep 7, 2021

Officials in school districts up and down the eastern tier of counties are likely being too optimistic in reopening schools with a “strongly recommended” mask policy. The decision not to require masks or vaccinations flies in the face of rising number of COVID-19 cases in the region.

Here are the reasons masks for kindergarten through 12th grade should be required:

  1. The number of active Delta variant cases is increasing quickly and causing disruptions, forced quarantines and hospitalizations in the area. Health officials are certain that for all the cases that are confirmed with positive tests, there are many more that are not getting tested when they feel the effects of the virus.

  2. Students up to the age of 12 still cannot receive any vaccination to protect them from the disease. A mask may be their only line of defense against a virus that can do considerable long-term damage.

  3. Masks work. We have to search no further than the experience of our schools last year. All required all students and staff to wear masks. And the schools for the most part had little trouble with episodes that require large numbers to quarantine. Plus, the incidents of students contracting influenza dropped dramatically due to masks, good sanitation and observing social distancing. This is particularly important because the Delta variant transmits much more readily than the original strain.

  4. Last year proved that children could adapt to wearing masks. There were no known cases of damage to students who were “unable to breath” because of masks.

  5. Peer pressure is inevitable within the schools. Parents wanting to protect their children by having them wear a mask may do so in vain. Schools will need to be super vigilant in making sure that students whose parents are against wearing masks won’t pressure those students wearing masks to remove them during school.

  6. Hospitals in the region are already full of COVID-19 patients and are turning away new patients. School-age children are much more likely to contract the Delta variant, which apparently spreads as easily has chicken pox. If students do come down with a severe case, will there be sufficient medical treatment to help them?

  7. There does not seem to be a plan for a clear case for reverting back to wearing masks. How many students being exposed to the virus is too many?

We are all way beyond just wanting this pandemic to be over. It appeared that earlier this summer the fight was over and we were returning to our pre-pandemic way of life.

But we were wrong. It’s back with a vengeance, and it is better that school officials be proactive rather than reactive in guarding the children of our communities.

Parents who oppose masks keep using the tired arguments that healthy children won’t get COVID, or that masks harm children in some way or that their rights are being stripped away. Those arguments are simply not true in a time when simple public health measures are needed.

Even one case of childhood COVID-19 is unacceptable if schools don’t take steps to prevent it. And if the end game is to keep children in the classroom, requiring students and staff to wear masks – at least until the current wave has subsided – is the best way to do that

The Linn County Journal welcomes letters to the editor. Submit by email to rsims@linncountyjournal.com or via the Post Office to Linn County Journal, P.O. Box 526, La Cygne, KS 66040. Be sure to include your name, address and phone number where you can be reached. Please make sure your letter is 500 words or less.

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