Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Don't Unmask Just Yet

If we've learned anything about COVID at all, it's that we cannot predict what it will do next. That's why the mask mandate in places other than schools has come, gone, and come again. We're looking at several blue states dropping mandates in schools, including New Jersey and Delaware. Very likely, New York will follow, though Kathy Hochul has not made a public decision just yet.

Hochul made a good decision, sending test kits home with students and staff going on break. With a little luck, that will avoid us a revisit of the disaster that was January 2022. In fact, even though there was a mask mandate, I see students walking around each and every day with masks hanging under their noses or around their necks. They know there are no consequences for this, so why not? Who cares if over 17% of students in our school tested positive for COVID when returning from Christmas break?

Now here's the thing--as predicted, Omicron came, peaked, and then dissipated just as it had in Israel, or wherever it was we saw this model. We're all happy to see it go. That said, last summer I was pretty freely going to restaurants and traveling to see friends and do odd jobs around the state. I wasn't nervous at all going into places I knew well without a mask. I don't know about you, but Omicron changed that for me. 

I'd be more than happy to be there again, but there is, in fact, another variant coming, and it could very well do just what Omicron did. Perhaps it won't, and I'm just as hopeful as anyone that it doesn't. Of course, even if it fizzles out into nothing, that doesn't mean there won't be another variant that brings us to a standstill. 

How can we prevent that? Let me think. Well, we know that if I'm wearing a surgical mask, you're unlikely to be infected by me. We know that if I'm wearing an N95 or something close to it, I'm further unlikely to be infected by you. Doesn't if follow, then, that if we all wear masks of that sort, no one is likely to be infected by anyone? 

Personally, I don't understand why it's even a discussion. I understand political arguments about taxes. We shouldn't pay so much in taxes. Or we should pay for this rather than that. Or we should get a better return for what we pay. I understand arguments about politicians. I like this one, not that one. This one did that, and ought to have done this.

I am beyond baffled that we're arguing over health. Health ought not to be a left or right issue. We ought to all be in favor of health, and we ought to do all we can to protect the health of our communities. I'd say the heart of our communities is our children. What would we not do to protect our children? 

These days, there are an awful lot of Americans who won't wear a frigging mask to protect our children. Perish forbid, of course, that they should get vaccinated. It doesn't matter that every week one of my students gets called down to the medical office to learn if she doesn't get vaccinated, she can't return. Why, exactly, in matters of health, should we have any more rights than children? Because we are bigger humans than they are? I'm not seeing it. Perhaps many share the beliefs of whoever painted that car above. 

Nonetheless, I'm a role model. I will continue to wear a mask until I'm sure our school environment is safe enough not to. With the possibility of new variants hanging over our heads, it seems a very bad idea to abandon them. Lawmakers could not predict Omicron, and they cannot predict what will happen with BA2, let alone whatever variants follow.

There is absolutely nothing more important than the health of our children, not the Pythagorean Theorem, not the novels we teach, be they banned or not, and not even teaching newcomers English. It behooves us to do all we can to protect their health, and our own as well. I'm not confident NY State will go the right way. 

We, as individuals, as teachers, ought to set a better example than politicians.

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