Thank you, Gov. Wolf, for Reissuing a Mask Mandate for PA Schools. Time for Next Steps

My daughter’s school has been open for seven days so far this year.

The school where I teach has been open three days.

Masks optional at both.

Do you know how terrifying that is for a father – to send his only child off to class hoping she’ll be one of the lucky ones who doesn’t get sick?

Do you know how frustrating it is for an educator like me trying to teach while unsure how long your students will be well enough to stay in class? Unsure how long you will?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warns we should wear masks in school to protect from Covid-19, especially the more virulent delta variant.

So does the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Nationwide Children’s Hospitals Care Connection, the Allegheny County Department of Health…

And just about every doctor, immunologist and specialist at UPMC as well as the Pennsylvania State Education Association, and the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.

Heck! Even the Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s editorial board – not always a bastion of good sense – called the decision to mask in schools a “no brainer.”

But somehow my duly elected school board couldn’t find the courage to enact that advice.

The school directors where I work refused to even explain their reasoning behind denying the precaution.

But BOTH groups promised to abide by any mandates handed down from on high.

It seemed that neither group had the courage to make the decision, themselves. They just passed it on to parents knowing full well that there would be no consistency.

Gather together a large enough group of anyone and it’s doubtful they’ll all agree on anything. And all it takes is one or two people to come to school unmasked to infect everybody there!

Thank goodness for Governor Tom Wolf.

Today he announced a mask mandate at all preK-12 schools, both public and private, and licensed child care centers beginning next Tuesday.

The mandate comes after three weeks of Wolf refusing to take this step.

At first, he said he was going to leave this up to the individual school boards – but they dropped the ball.

Only 36.8% of districts throughout Pennsylvania enacted some form of mass mandate on their own, though they serve 53.25% of students.

That’s 184 districts with some form of mask requirement, 307 optional and 9 unknown.

What a disgrace!

It just goes to show that the great majority of school directors in the Commonwealth are cowards, stupid or both.

If the voters don’t rise up and replace these fools, we will only have ourselves to blame.

They have betrayed the public trust.

They should be hounded from our midst, unfit to even show themselves in society.

To put kids lives at risk because you haven’t the guts to take the responsibility! Or worse, to be so idiotic as to distrust nearly every medical professional, scientist, immunologist or specialist!

As a state, and as a country, we have been given an intelligence test – and our leaders have mostly failed.

I am thankful Governor Wolf acted.

Finally.

Wolf’s emergency powers to sustain a state disaster declaration were curtailed by voters in the May election.

Another failure of voters to turn out and support one of the few people with the courage to protect our children.

However, May’s referendum did not affect the Wolf administration’s ability to implement a masking order or other public-health rules under the state’s disease-control law. The Pennsylvania Department of Health has the authority to issue a statewide mask order for K-12 schools under a state law that empowers the department to take appropriate measures to protect the public from infectious diseases.

To his credit, Wolf tried to work with the legislature to get this done.

He asked the Republican-controlled state House and Senate to come back in session and vote on the matter. But since they prefer politics to safeguarding children they refused.

We are fortunate to have at least one adult in Harrisburg – and he lives in the Governor’s mansion.

However, we can’t get complacent.

This mask mandate is only step one of what needs to be done.

As many other states have done, we need to require all school employees to get the Covid vaccine or provide proof of regular negative COVID tests just to enter educational buildings.

Right now children younger than 12 are not eligible to be vaccinated. We need to require those young people who are eligible to get the vaccine or provide them with an alternative like remote learning. And when the vaccine has been cleared for all children, we need to add it to the long list of other vaccines children already need to get to enter school.

We need an influx of funding to make it possible to keep kids in school and still keep them socially distanced. As it is now, this is nearly impossible – I speak from experience.

The school where I teach has hardly any social distancing, and frankly we can’t have in-person school without more classrooms, more teachers, more space.

We need to bring back cleaning protocols to make sure every classroom is properly disinfected between periods. We need to ensure that school buildings are properly ventilated.

Will this be expensive? Probably, but if we could waste $300 million a day for two decades in Afghanistan that resulted in NOTHING, we can afford to properly fund our schools for once!

But most of all, we have to come to an understanding – the pandemic is not over – and it will not be over until enough of the general population is vaccinated.

Are you frustrated by masks? Are you frustrated we have to keep going back to these safety precautions?

Me, too.

But these precautions can’t go away just because we’re frustrated. People have to understand that the only way they will go away is if everyone does their part.

Going out in public unmasked should bring severe social consequences.

People who recklessly put the lives of others in danger just because they don’t feel like being bothered deserve the cold shoulder.


They should be stigmatized, rebuffed and ostracized.

Let me be clear. I’m not talking about physical violence. I’m talking about social consequences for acting like an Asshole.

We need to grow up.

Actions have consequences.

We need a functioning society.

And communities that can’t even come together to protect their own children are nothing of the sort.

It’s way past time we took action.

Gov. Wolf has put us on the path, but this is not over.

This is just the beginning.


 

Like this post?  You might want to consider becoming a Patreon subscriber. This helps me continue to keep the blog going and get on with this difficult and challenging work.

Plus you get subscriber only extras!

Just CLICK HERE.

Patreon+Circle

I’ve also written a book, “Gadfly on the Wall: A Public School Teacher Speaks Out on Racism and Reform,” now available from Garn Press. Ten percent of the proceeds go to the Badass Teachers Association. Check it out!

6 thoughts on “Thank you, Gov. Wolf, for Reissuing a Mask Mandate for PA Schools. Time for Next Steps

  1. You are sowing the seeds of a civil discontent, unreast and at worst a war. I am a father to two bright young boys. They had Covid and had zero symptoms, though they gave it to my wife and I. They have immunity and now we do too. Why should we have to live under your dystopian rules. Kids are not at risk. Adults can be vacinated by choice or live with their risk based on their own decisions. Covid is endemic, it can not be eradicated like small pox or polio. It is here to stay. Lets mitigate and move on.

    I am a mild mannered person who in the last 24 hours has gone from an excited father to a kindergarten child to an angry man pushed to the brink. You keep pushing now we are forced to push back.

    Take control of your child’s wellbeing as you see fit. If you elect to vacinate your child against covid or the flu, I believe that is your decision. Same as allowing your child to learn remotely vs in school. Let communities decide how protect their public spaces so people feel part of the decision process. Stop totalitarian rule from above.

    Lastly you make no case for why masking is effective; its not. Quoting an editorial board rather than published data of cold statistics of child risk (which is negligible). You seem to erroneously think that Covid will go away when you have vacination rates high enough. That false. Its endemic and needs to be mitigated like we dealt with flu. You fear monger and fail to look at trade offs of your policies both from the mandate’s direct impacts and the precedent mandates in general set. You sacrifice long term freedom for a misguided sense of short term security. Ben Franklin thinks that your deserve neither, and I agree.

    Like

    • Christian, I listed a whole bunch of organizations that recommend masking. The CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics, alone, represent more than 70,000 doctors. If you want facts, turn to them.I did. If you are still unconvinced and don’t want to vaccinate or take safety precautions, that is your right. But it comes with consequences. Your children should have to be schooled remotely and you should not be allowed to circulate with the masked population. Maybe you can shop on-line. And the reason is simple – you have no right to infect other people. That should not be controversial or political. It’s called citizenship, being a responsible adult.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Gee, Steven, Christian says you’re “sowing the seeds….of war.”
        He’s more than a little hyperbolic. There are too many people with his attitude, and that is largely why the pandemic is ongoing.
        Too bad your blog doesn’t have a downvote ability, because he really deserves a downvote.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m with you, Steven, and am glad your governor finally took action. My sons are grown and I’m so grateful I don’t have to navigate public school and their safety right now. My heart is with parents and young children at this time.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.