In case people forgot, there is still a pandemic raging, and currently there are almost 54,000 reported cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., with nearly 700 people dying in this country on Tuesday. But the mask wars rage on too. The latest example: Parents rallying against a mask mandate at their children’s schools caused a Vail Unified School District (VUSD) school board meeting to be canceled out of safety concerns Tuesday night in Arizona. The school year in Vail (which includes parts of Tucson) ends in under four weeks.
On April 19, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey enacted an executive order lifting the state’s order to require face masks in schools. His order says, “K-12 school districts and charter schools still maintain the right to institute and enforce policies to mitigate against COVID-19 spread, including the use of masks,” and several local school districts elected to maintain their mask mandate throughout the remainder of the school year.
We're in Vail where a group of parents that wants the school district to do away with a mask requirement for kids are gathering outside district headquarters. There was a school board meeting scheduled for tonight. @KVOA pic.twitter.com/6lbOBmATjE
— Eric Fink (@EricMillerFink) April 28, 2021
VUSD had told parents it would continue its current COVID-19 mitigation practices for the time being and discuss the matter this week. However, Tuesday night’s meeting was canceled just minutes before it was set to begin, because district officials were concerned for the safety of parents and community members who were rallying outside, calling for the district to lift the mask mandate. Pima County Sheriff’s Department deputies were brought in to maintain order.
The meeting’s cancellation caused some parents to get upset and demand to speak to the board. Five parents along with their kids were allowed to speak to the board, according to a report by News 4 Tucson
This is the Vail School District headquarters tonight. Angry parents say they want to be heard as the school board fears for their safety. This is all has to do with a mask requirement in Vail schools still in place. @KVOA pic.twitter.com/rlf4vlbNvs
— Eric Fink (@EricMillerFink) April 28, 2021
“These are my rights as a parent and they don’t get to decide how I raise them and what I believe is true and factual,” one parent said. “It’s disgusting what’s being done and I don’t agree with it. I don’t. When you look at the flu, it also causes death. It also hurts people.”
This parent’s opinion is not based on the data, which refutes this belief. While the flu can be deadly, it is significantly less deadly than COVID-19. Since the pandemic began in the U.S., more than 32 million people have been infected with COVID-19 and about 570,000 people have died, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Conversely, the CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in between 9 million to 45 million illnesses each year, and between 12,000 to 61,000 deaths each year since 2010. Even when compared to the 2017-2018 flu season, the most deadly recent flu season with 61,000 deaths, COVID-19 deaths are almost 10 times greater.
The Vail Unified district told News 4 Tucson about 90 percent of parents support the mask mandate for their kids.
“There’s always the smaller portion that likes to be louder than others,” another parent said. “But I believe the school district does a great job of hearing and putting the concerns and safety of everyone.”
The CDC released new mask guidelines earlier this week, announcing fully vaccinated people can gather in small groups outdoors, but continues to recommend masks at indoor public places, such as hair salons, restaurants, shopping centers, gyms, museums, movie theaters, and schools, saying that is still the safer course even for vaccinated people.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the agency’s guidance should be a model for states in setting their mask-wearing requirements.
Like in many areas of the country, the pandemic has caused divisions in communities to grow to breaking points.
“[VUSD} have never not asked for our input on anything. We get to help build the high school. We get to help name the high school. We help pick the colors. They literally invented three different ways to educate our kids, so they could try to appease everyone during a pandemic,” said another parent who has two children in the district.
The issue with “choosing” to lift the mandate, however, is that kids who are still too young to be vaccinated don’t get to choose whether they will contract the virus if people around them aren’t taking safety precautions. Nor can they choose whether they’ll be among the few who might fall seriously ill with it.
School officials at VUSD say district leaders are working on a letter to send to all parents as a reminder that the mask mandate remains in place.
Before you go, check out our gallery on Cute & Stylish Kids Face Masks.