A Florida school board meeting about extending the school’s face-mask mandate for students resulted in one mom’s arrest on Tuesday. The incident, combined with other news stories from around the country this fall, have us worried about just how much parents are willing to believe something they read on Facebook over actual medical experts when it comes to COVID-19 and their community.
In Largo, Florida, the Pinellas County School Board was voting on a mask mandate after the emergency rule imposed when schools opened this fall expired this week. According to the Tampa Bay Times, 25 parents came to the meeting to argue against it, with some bringing along their children.
If you’re curious, you can catch the very long meeting here. Several of the anti-mask speakers make emotional pleas in which they say there is no scientific proof that masks are effective against the spread of COVID-19, and that many studies have shown that masks are harmful to children — while never actually citing these studies. Both of those statements are false.
Just this week, the CDC once more revised its recommendation on mask wearing, adding that new information has shown that masks really do protect the wearer from virus particles. The previous guidance had said only that masks helped prevent infected people from transmitting the virus to others. If you want to know why this works, despite the oft repeated “fact” that virus particles are smaller than the holes between mask fibers, watch this illustration from the New York Times.
Other studies have recently shown that wearing a mask, even during vigorous exercise, does not limit the body’s intake of oxygen. So, yeah, most of your kids are actually fine wearing masks, despite those freaked-out statements. The school board agreed, and passed the new mask rule by a vote of four to one.
While this meeting was going on, some parents decided to leave the building, and apparently removed their masks while still in the hall. School district police officers asked one mom, Sam Stefano, to put her mask back on as she was exiting the building, beginning a heated argument that has been captured on Facebook videos. Another mom, Kari Turner, who had removed her mask, allegedly came to assist Stefano. This part does not appear on video, so we are unsure of why they eventually arrested Turner and at one point had her 13-year-old daughter pinned to the ground.
“The individual refused to wear a mask, which began a series of events that led to the arrest,” district spokeswoman Isabel Macarenas told the Tampa Bay Times. Turner has been charged with battery on a law enforcement officer, trespassing, and disorderly conduct.
As the arrest was happening, Stefano finally put her mask back on and left the building. On the video someone tells her to remove her mask so she doesn’t get sick. Which, one more time, people, is not a thing.
So whatever went down between the parents and the school district police was not ideal, from anyone’s perspective. But let’s get back to the big picture. These parents are super passionate about fighting for what they perceive as their children’s right to attend school without a mask. This concept entirely ignores the fact that if you make mask-wearing a choice then of course masks really won’t work. And allowing people not to wear a mask then removes everyone’s right to safety from a highly contagious virus. Even if most children don’t feel the worst effects of COVID, that number isn’t zero, and they can still pass the virus on to older relatives and others in the community.
In addition to getting hyped up on false information about masks, parents are making things worse with other anti-science actions. There was the “mom code” in Utah reported last month, in which parents avoided getting their sick kids tested in order to avoid quarantines and school closures. There are also new reports from Kansas that parents are refusing to answer questions from contact tracers.
“These are real people who are contact tracing,” Shawnee Mission School District health coordinator Shelby Rebeck told KCUR. “Real human beings, nurses who work in our schools, and when they are berated by parents, or parents who just flat-out say, ‘I am not going to speak to you, I am not going to participate in this contact tracing,’ it is frustrating. It is scary. We’re scared for our teachers.”
Even setting aside worries about people who are vulnerable to the virus, do you not realize that if you let the virus spread unchecked, then schools close for longer?
This only goes away if everyone thinks about their community, not just themselves. Also, probably, if they get off Facebook once in a while.
Finding the right kids face mask could be the key to getting your children to keep them on without complaints. Try one of these.