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When sending children back to school this fall, using logic is a must

With the Fourth of July behind us and back to school sales popping up everywhere you look, there still seems to be some inconsistencies as far as how each individual school plans to address health and safety measures once the fall semester begins. A Tuesday article by The Associated Press cited a few examples: Students in Wichita, Kansas, public schools can ditch the masks when classes begin. Detroit public schools will probably require them unless everyone in a room is vaccinated. In Pittsburgh, masks will likely be required regardless of vaccination status. And in some states, schools cannot mandate face coverings under any circumstances.

With COVID-19 cases soaring nationwide, school districts across the U.S. are yet again confronting the realities of a polarized country and the lingering pandemic as they navigate mask requirements, vaccine rules and social distancing requirements for the fast-approaching new school year.

The spread of the delta variant and the deep political divisions over the outbreak have complicated decisions in districts from coast to coast. Some conservative states, lawmakers have banned districts from requiring masks despite outcry from medical professionals. Schools are weighing a variety of plans to manage junior high and middle school classrooms filled with both vaccinated and unvaccinated students.

“I’m so frustrated that it’s become a political issue because it shouldn’t be. It’s science,” said Mary Tuttle, who operates an Indianapolis in-home day care center and hopes the city’s schools require masks for her daughters.

She worries that the delta variant could lead to a return to virtual learning, which caused her 10-year-old daughter to become depressed and anxious last year. Another daughter will turn 12 six days after starting 6th grade and will be vaccinated as soon as possible.

Adding to the concerns is a rise in cases overall — sharply in some states, including Arkansas, which won’t let schools require masks. Public health researchers on Tuesday called Arkansas’ rapidly climbing infections and hospitalizations a “raging forest fire,” and the state’s top health official warned of significant future outbreaks in schools.

The American Academy of Pediatrics on Monday recommended universal masking in schools, even for those who are vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month recommended mask-wearing indoors only for students and staff who are not fully vaccinated.

The vaccine has not been approved for children under 12. If it shown to be safe and effective for younger ages, vaccine manufacturers may seek emergency authorization sometime this fall or winter.

Until then, we support keeping our youth safe, with continued wearing of masks, hand washing, and social distancing. The fact that a public health issue has been somehow spun into a political issue is, in our view, simply idiotic. This virus is still killing people all over the world, regardless of our allegiances to red or blue, and we also don’t know what kind of long-term effects it will have on us. The smart move is to keep our children safe, as well as their fellow classmates.

“It’s sad (wearing masks) has become so divisive that we’ve put our political thoughts and feelings above what experts say,” said Jacky Frechette, who has a son who’s vaccinated and a 4-year-old who isn’t. We agree wholeheartedly. If you have children in the school system who are under 12, and you’re getting ready to do your back to school shopping — please, include masks on your list. It might just save a life.

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