If he hadn’t already with most people, I think it’s safe to say that with his new mask mandate for kids in schools and day care, Gov. Tom Wolf has finally worn out his welcome as Pennsylvania’s chief executive with the state’s residents.
He’s been in over his head for years, and the last 18 months have made that situation painfully clear to anyone with the willingness to look beyond partisan politics and the fear machine created by those who have crippled this state, this nation and the entire world because they, themselves, are afraid – irrationally afraid – of anyone getting COVID-19.
A real leader would publicly recognize and make it as plain and as clear as possible for everyone that there is no avoiding COVID-19. It may change, it may weaken, it may do whatever, but one thing it’s not doing – based on science – is, like other coronaviruses, it’s not going to go away.
Let me be crystal clear: just like the common cold and a host of other bugs that catch up to us at some point in our lives – multiple times in many cases – you will get exposed and infected with COVID-19.
The virus will be endemic – you just need to decide how you’re going to go about your normal life knowing that. Anyone telling you anything else isn’t being honest with you, and you need to question why.
You could be vaccinated, in which case your reaction to the infection could be minor to non-existent – like most people – or maybe you get a bit more sick, but not to the point that your life is in danger. You could be near the end of the effectiveness of your vaccination – though we’re still not sure how long that might take – and maybe your reaction is a little worse, or maybe not because you’re young and/or otherwise healthy. Or you could be unvaccinated, which is the least optimal situation, even for the otherwise healthy but assuredly for those at the highest levels of risk, such as the elderly, others who are immunocompromised or people with multiple comorbidities (things like being overweight, being diabetic, or having high blood pressure).
So, focusing all our efforts on getting as many people vaccinated should be not just the top goal, it should be the only goal, and anything that negatively impacts that shouldn’t be pursued.
Tuesday’s sideshow about masks for schools and day cares simply distracts from the vaccination effort – not just because masking young children is being driven by irrational fear, but because it seriously risks the ability to convince more people to get the vaccine. Appearing politically motivated, as this mask mandate looks because of its timing and its avoidance of the normal political process, does more to drive those already opposed to vaccination further into their own irrational fear corner.
Focusing all of our efforts on getting as many people vaccinated should be not just the stop goal, it should be the only goal…
The governor’s announcement has all the look of yet another overreach of his administration’s executive power.
This is the same governor who throughout the summer said local school districts should be making the decision about masking, and later, when pressed about those decisions, urged districts to follow federal guidance and require masks… but he never did anything. Now, because lots of districts – exercising the autonomy he said they should have to react to their local situations – didn’t do what he wanted them to do, his administration is taking away that autonomy and forcing them to do what he wants.
If there was a specific outcome he wanted – and which he determined he had the power to impose anyway – why waste weeks/months offering the illusion of local control, with the usurpation of that control likely to produce more confusion, discord and negative backlash greater than if he had just made it clear weeks ago he would require masks in school?
And while the acting Health Secretary – that’s right, she’s never been confirmed by the legislature – and Wolf may believe they have the power to do this, they have no basis for it, making matters even worse.
There is no disaster emergency in effect, and the situation on the ground with regard to the COVID-19 virus is nowhere near where it was even a few months ago, meaning things now are not as bad as they were this past spring, and certainly nowhere near where they were last fall and this past winter… and now, unlike all those other time periods, we also have, as of Tuesday, 63.6 percent of those age 12 and older fully vaccinated, with 80.1 percent of that population being at least partially vaccinated.
Moreover, neither Wolf, nor his experts that were part of the Tuesday afternoon announcement, have relevant science on which to base the forced masking of children, who stand to suffer more harm than any hypothetical help the mask might provide regarding the COVID-19 virus.
There are no studies showing masks by themselves provide any additional protection to children.
Yes, you read that correctly. Anyone claiming such studies exist isn’t being intellectually honest – for what reason, I’ll let readers be the judge – as the only available studies involving masks in schools failed to isolate mask use from other mitigation strategies that may very well have produced reduced virus transmission in schools when compared to the communities in which those schools are located.
And claiming, as Wolf did, that his masking mandate is “common sense” isn’t a substitute for actual studies and science.
READ MORE — Wolf asks Pennsylvania legislators to mandate masks in public schools
Conduct the right types of studies, and if they show there’s benefit in schools, then we can revisit the policy, but right now there are a lot people who aren’t sold on the value, and they have just as much health expertise as those who are forcing masks on kids.
Some of those health experts are located in the United Kingdom – I’m sure across the pond, like here, they all love children and wish no harm to come to any of them – and their findings prompted that nation to state it is important that schoolchildren age 5 through 11 not wear face coverings. Those experts – and experts in several other European nations that are mirroring UK masking policy – say COVID-19 infection rates are low among that age group and wearing face coverings could affect the development of those children.
Did I miss something, or does COVID-19 affect UK kids differently than US kids? Or is it just that US kids are immune to the potential developmental problems from masking raised as a concern by the top advisor to Public Health England – basically the UK’s version of our federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)?
How rational does that make our governor and his minions look as they almost hyperventilated their way through their Tuesday press briefing about the gloom and doom that will ensue if small children aren’t forced to wear masks?
Just as concerning is the governor and his experts say this policy is “temporary,” but Wolf couldn’t say, when specifically asked, what will trigger the mandate’s cessation.
Plus, in the fine print, one of the governor’s experts on Tuesday said the policy will be in effect at least until there are vaccines for young children, ages five and older. What they didn’t say is that, at best, that could be several months. It may be, potentially, November or December before a vaccine under emergency use authorization is available to young children, and then it could take several more months before those children are vaccinated to an acceptable level.
Even after that, there’s always the potential for these experts to say it’s still not “safe” – so don’t buy the “temporary” line of bull.
Remember how “two weeks to flatten the curve” turned into “two months to flatten the curve,” and then it took the people of Pennsylvania voting, more than a year later, to undo the governor’s disaster declaration, which he would not have lifted without that vote?
While the administration is lacking science to support their irrational forced masking, there is plenty of science to show children remain at a considerably low risk of any negative consequence from the virus – again just ask Public Health England, or look at the CDC’s own data showing the infinitesimally small number of children who have to be hospitalized – and that data doesn’t differentiate a hospitalization because of COVID from a hospitalization caused by something else, but the asymptomatic child tested positive for COVID.
Additionally, as mentioned by Public Health England’s top advisor, there’s mounting evidence to suggest such forced, open-ended masking impacts the development of children. These are the same young children who have already been harmed by the school-related mitigation policies pursued by Wolf and his administration the last 18 months.
When the governor himself admits – and his experts admit – the best way to curb the virus is to get as many people vaccinated as possible (and those 12 and older can do so now), and with vaccines readily available and now having full federal approval for use (not just emergency use authorization) for people age 16 and older, why has there been no requirement, as a condition of employment, for all adults who work in Pennsylvania’s public schools to be fully vaccinated?
New York City and New Jersey did that, and yet Too-Slow Tom, who acknowledged he probably should have had his mask mandate done sooner than September – after most schools have already returned to classroom instruction – hasn’t publicly said a word to the state’s public school teachers and administrators about required vaccination.
With all adults in the public schools fully vaccinated, why should there be any need for young children to be masked?
Wolf has already mandated 25,000 state employees under his jurisdiction to be vaccinated as a condition of their employment, or face additional rigorous virus testing, and his Health Department has mandated at least 80 percent of workers in each of Pennsylvania’s hundreds of nursing homes to be vaccinated or those facilities will face consequences.
With all adults in the public schools fully vaccinated, why should there be any need for young children to be masked?
He’s even told all employees under his jurisdiction to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status, which kinda begs the question why he and his acting Health Secretary are only going after school kids and school employees with this latest mask mandate, and not the entirety of the state’s population. Wouldn’t everyone wearing masks everywhere be better than piecemeal application of the policy, if you believe there’s a high returned value from masking?
Maybe the politics of that, and the likelihood of lots of people ignoring Crying Wolf – I’m sorry, Gov. Wolf – makes that question moot, but, if so, shouldn’t that also render the idea of masking young kids just as moot given how a sizable portion of the state’s population – particularly those who have been difficult to convince about the clear importance of vaccination – will negatively react to it?
Just as concerning to me is that Wolf and his administration are putting a burden on young children – again, irrationally – to stem virus transmission when that could be, by the governor’s own words (and those of his experts), accomplished by adults being vaccinated.
Why hasn’t he told the adults – who should already know better – that if they really want to return to school and the classroom, and if they truly care about the children in their charge, they have to be vaccinated? And why is he focusing on policy that has a high chance of being counterproductive to the stated goal of getting as many people as possible vaccinated to protect them against serious medical conditions that can be caused by COVID-19 in certain situations.
You’ll have to come up with your own answers to those questions as we’ll likely never get answers from Wolf.
Doing something with no scientific, rational reason, something that could negatively impact more people getting vaccinated, is yet another leadership failure in a long list of them for this governor and his administration.
This piece is shared with permission from Capitolwire.com. Chris Comisac is their Bureau Chief.