March 11, 2021
During the first week of March, governors in Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Arizona, West Virginia, and Connecticut announced significant loosening of statewide pandemic restrictions, including mask mandates and indoor capacity limits. They were joined by several others in loosening statewide coronavirus restrictions in early 2021. During 2020, other states like Georgia and Alaska chose to never implement statewide mask mandates. Last September, Florida became one the largest states to roll back Covid-19 capacity restrictions when the governor reopened bars and restaurants to full capacity. This is happening while the number of Covid-19 cases in the US crossed 29 million and more than 524,000 people have died across the country. The CDC says one way to make a difference is to wear a mask.
When I substituted for several local Elementary and Jr. High Schools last year, I was constantly amazed by what students wore to school. The lockers were shut down for safety reasons so what the students had on was what they came with. More correctly, I was amazed by what they did not wear. I grew up with the definition of a sweater as, “something you wore when your mother got cold.” These students seemed to not get cold at all, having neither coats nor sweaters, and quite often wearing shorts in sub-freezing weather. When they did bring outerwear, it was usually left on the back of a chair or crumpled in the corner when I closed the room for the day.
I have been amazed during the last year by how many masks I have found lying on the ground (no, I did not pick it up!). These have been both the disposable paper masks and the reusable cloth masks. When governors loosening the restrictions are asked about the wisdom on news reports, they have universally responded that “people know the risks and they will do the right thing.” The reason for the mandates is because people refused to do the right thing, and Spring Break, Memorial Day, and 4th of July sent the numbers through the roof. The only masks I have not seen on the ground are the homemade cotton masks. Apparently, when you or a loved one takes the time to put in the love to make a mask you take better care of them.
Thoughts: One of the things I have often heard this last year is that it is the students and not the adults who take the mask mandates seriously. When I first heard of the school mask mandates, I had visions of masks spread out in a line from the classrooms to the bus in a modern replay of the breadcrumbs of Hansel and Gretel. Students not only wear their masks but know how to wear them properly. In recent weeks health officials in the US have repeatedly warned that the emergence of the new variants and loosening open restrictions will cause another spike in cases. That means we need to be vigilant and not open until cases stabilize. Many refuse to heed the warning. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.