When we broke the news to my oldest daughter, her face looked like we just canceled her birthday party.
“You’ve got to wear a mask again to school, kiddo.”
We never promised her that she’d be mask-free forever. But at the conclusion of her kindergarten year we told her that because the virus was slowing and because a shot was available, she wouldn’t have to wear a mask to begin the next school year.
That lasted 10 days of class.
The Mitchell Board of Education on Monday decided at a special meeting to re-enact a mask mandate through, at the very least, early November. The five-member school board listened to an hour of public commentary but felt that because cases of coronavirus are increasing again, masks are the right choice.
I don’t envy those people and I can’t imagine any of them slept well this week. Ultimately, anyone can find studies, science and educated people who say masks do work, and then anyone can do some research to find information that says masks don’t work. It’s a confirmation-bias world we live in, unfortunately, and people read and hear what they want to boost their own beliefs.
Following the meeting Monday night, I decided that I’m terribly sorry for my 7-year-old daughter who needs to wear a mask again for 7-plus hours a day to go to school. The smiles will be hidden. It’s harder to hear friends and teachers. And those masks just are a downer to look at, no matter how bright and colorful they’re made.
And what I really decided after that meeting is we can’t be blaming the Mitchell Board of Education here. These people, especially those who ran in the 2021 election, knew they’d be up against difficult decisions to keep our children safe. They shouldn’t be the scapegoat for the mask mandate. For these people to serve our district is downright commendable, and they make our community a better place. Always err on the side of caution and safety when it comes to kids, right?
So does that mean we should toss masks on each child because, well, what harm is it causing anyway? No, the problem is not facecoverings, though my disdain for them has reached an all-time high.
The problem is most certainly low vaccination rates. It’s that simple -- we shouldn’t be in this situation. My daughter, your kid and all school-aged children have to wear a mask because our vaccination rates are atrocious.
How are we still here, arguing with each other, debating about how to beat coronavirus? How do we as a nation, as of Sunday, only have 49.6 percent of people vaccinated?
When U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds and John Thune, both strong Republicans, and U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, a familiar face in Mitchell, all encourage people to get the vaccine, why are we still debating this? Is refusing a safe, effective vaccine really a worthwhile political stance to show personal freedoms? Sure, I could have used that excuse, given the fact that I absolutely hate needles and shots -- but I sweat through getting poked twice for what I hope is the good of the cause.
It’s been 500-plus days since the coronavirus was declared a national pandemic, and Monday night’s school board meeting was perhaps among the darkest days since then. People screaming, interrupting, name-calling and finger-pointing. Absolutely embarrassing this is who we are this far into the pandemic.
You know what my daughter did when I told her she had to start wearing a mask to school again? She sighed a little bit, looked me and my wife in the eyes and nodded. No hissy-fits. No name-calling. No arguing.
Then, she went and gathered up some of her favorite masks that we all hoped were put away for good. She knows if she can make a small difference, keeping even one person healthier, just by wearing a mask that she doesn’t like, it’s for the greater good.
If only we all could think as reasonably as a 7 year old.