As a parent of one kid vaccinated against Covid and another who cannot yet be vaccinated, I received the news of unmasked fall in our public schools with disappointment. I was disappointed that a community whose members so often label themselves as pro-life will not accept a minor inconvenience of masking in order to protect the lives of its immunocompromised and youngest members — those who are most vulnerable. I was disappointed that my community cannot endure a minor inconvenience to protect the physical and mental health of doctors and nurses who have been bearing the brunt of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.
To those who say that masks are harmful: They are not. Research shows that carbon dioxide diffuses through the mask while viruses are blocked. If you are a healthy adult or child, you will not suffer from hypoxia.
To those who say that vaccines are dangerous: They carry some risks but not as many risks as a Covid infection. Read expert opinion about this issue instead of your uncle’s Facebook rants.
To those who say that they know better than a legion of epidemiologists, ER doctors and other specialists: Don’t turn to those specialists when you or your loved ones suffer through the agony of chest pain and difficult breathing. When your lungs are on fire, and you gasp for breath, and your lips and nails turn blue, and your kidneys fail, call that person who told you on social media that COVID-19 is a hoax.
To those who say that my preschooler who cannot yet get the vaccine should just wear a mask herself: She will. And when she does, she protects others from COVID-19 but remains herself unprotected. Remember? My mask protects you. Your mask protects me.
To those who say they are Christians: Your masks protect others from harm and death. Your masks prove that you are not seeking personal good but the good of others (Phil. 2:1-11). Love thy neighbor means protect others from harm and ensure that they are safe.
If you hold life as precious, why not put a mask on to protect a flesh-and-blood person standing next to you in line for lunch? Someone who sits next to you in math class? Someone who needs to buy milk and eggs in the same store where you shop?
Schools are some of the most crowded, poorly ventilated spaces in this state. They will become a vector of new strains of COVID-19 if we do not employ a swiss-cheese prevention strategy: masking, distancing, and ventilating. And if the kids don’t suffer from long-term effects of Covid themselves, if they are less likely to die from it than adults, consider that these kids interact with adults all the time and are capable of transmitting COVID in all its current iterations to their parents, grandparents, church members and teachers.
As an educator myself, I understand the frustrations of teaching to a sea of masked faces. I get the mental strain of speaking through a mask to my students for hours. I am not saying that masks do not cause any inconvenience. I am saying, though, that on balance, this inconvenience is better than intubations, long-term lung damage, or death. Let’s mask in schools to protect others. Wouldn’t you want your kids to learn the lesson of caring about others’ well-being?
Professor, Department of English