Mask mandate tough call, right call

From the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “CO2 molecules are small enough to easily pass through mask material. In contrast, the respiratory droplets that carry the virus that causes COVID-19 are much larger than CO2, so they cannot pass as easily through a properly designed and properly worn mask.”

From John Hopkins Medicine: “… If you are infected with the coronavirus and do not know it, a mask is very good at keeping your respiratory droplets and particles from infecting others. If you haven’t yet received your COVID-19 vaccine, wearing a mask can also help prevent germs that come from another person’s respiratory droplets from getting into your nose and mouth.”

From the Mayo Clinic: “Face masks combined with other preventive measures, such as getting vaccinated, frequent hand-washing and physical distancing, can help slow the spread of the virus.”

From University of North Carolina Health: “Surgeons wear masks for hours at a time when performing long surgeries, and they’re fine.”

After more than 18 months of the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with years of epidemic research both in the U.S. and elsewhere around the globe and more than a century of real-time evidence in operating rooms, we have a very clear verdict: Face masks are safe, unharmful to the wearer, and can help both the wearer and others avoid coronavirus infection.

Still, the decision of school boards in Alpena and elsewhere in Northeast Michigan to mandate students and staff to wear facemasks was a tough call, for political reasons. For months, now, the Alpena school board has been buffeted by folks on both sides of the issue who have threatened to pull their kids — at more than $8,000 each to the district’s bottom line — out of school if they don’t get their way.

We understand parents’ concerns. After a year and a half of this, we’re all tired of rules and limitations and requirements, and no one enjoys wearing a mask or missing the masked smiles of others. Our kids feel much the same.

But we also understand the real-time situation school leaders face. Just a couple weeks into the school year, multiple schools have had to send students home to learn online because of staff or students either infected or in quarantine because they came in contact with an infected person. In short, because of the again fast-spreading disease, Alpena Public Schools couldn’t do its job.

So they turned to a mask mandate in the hopes of keeping enough of their students and staff healthy to keep their doors open and their students learning.

Pulling a student out of school is a parent’s decision. But maintaining a safe learning environment for every student is a school board’s responsibility, and we believe local districts made the right call.


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