Anti-Mask Protest-Solanco School District

People protest against school mask requirements outside a Solanco school board meeting at Smith Middle School on Monday, May 3, 2021.

THE ISSUE

More than 655,000 people in the United States have died of COVID-19 — 1,084 in Lancaster County, as of Friday. As LNP | LancasterOnline reported Wednesday, Lancaster County’s three hospitals had an average of 75 COVID-19 inpatients over the past week, up from 61 the previous week. “Deaths have also been on a rise after reaching a pandemic low of just six in July,” this newspaper reported. “Deaths began increasing in the second half of August and the quicker pace has continued into September, with eight deaths reported here in the first five days of the month, according to data from Lancaster County’s coroner, Dr. Stephen Diamantoni.” The highly transmissible delta variant of the novel coronavirus has driven this latest surge.

We have questions for those who continue to resist the measures — masking, social distancing, vaccination — that will help us contain this brutally persistent pandemic.

We’re tired of wearing masks, too, but still we wear them. We rolled up our sleeves and got vaccinated at the first opportunity.

We’ve done our part, and we cannot grasp what the obstacles are to others doing theirs. So we have questions for mask- and vaccine-resisters, and for the officials who are acquiescing to their demands.

1. You say you want “normalcy.” Yet small businesses and the hospitality industry simply cannot survive another COVID-19 wave that keeps customers away; they are struggling to make it now. Why wouldn’t you do what’s necessary to keep COVID-19 cases down?

2. You say you don’t want to get any of the three COVID-19 vaccines that were approved after rigorous testing and exhaustive assessment by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (More than 377 million doses of these vaccines already have been administered in the United States.) Yet some of you are willing to ingest ivermectin — even the dewormer paste made for horses — which is mostly meant to treat infections caused by parasites, not COVID-19, and can sicken some people who take the wrong dosage. Why not take one of the safe, effective and free COVID-19 vaccines?

3. Some of you say you’re afraid of needles. Will you also decline an IV drip or other intravenous medication if hospitalized with COVID-19?

4. This question is for the school officials of Penn Manor, Donegal and Pequea Valley school districts. You have granted “grace periods” to allow parents to get physician notes so their children can be exempt from the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s school mask mandate. Do you think the delta variant is giving your students a grace period?

5. Penn Manor Superintendent Mike Leichliter told LNP | LancasterOnline that his district already has received about 300 exemption requests. School taxpayers: Is this what you wanted your tax dollars to be spent on — processing the requests of hundreds of parents riled up over a mask requirement?

6. Doctors who treat asthma and other lung diseases actually advise their patients to wear face masks to protect against COVID-19. According to research presented at this year’s convention of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, wearing a mask, “which helps to slow the spread of COVID-19, does not impact the oxygen saturation of the wearer, regardless of if the individual has asthma or not,” according to the academy’s website.

“This data reinforces that wearing a mask, whether it is a surgical mask, cloth mask, or N95, is completely safe,” said study author Alan P. Baptist, M.D. “This is true for all individuals, whether they have a diagnosis of asthma or not. Wearing a mask is an essential step we can all take to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

School officials and mask-resisters: Do you think you know more than the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology?

More than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, which all recommended requiring masks in school?

7. This is for the parents of schoolchildren who have been wielding anti-mask signs reading “Let (children) breathe” outside school board meetings. COVID-19 is a respiratory virus that can make it so difficult to breathe that some patients must be intubated — that is, to have a breathing tube threaded down their throats toward their lungs, so a ventilator can do the work their lungs are too weak and too sick to do.

Again, studies have shown that masks don’t impede breathing (see above) — which is why nurses and doctors are able to wear them for hours on end.

If you truly are concerned about the respiratory wellness of your children, wouldn’t you want to take the simple precaution of having them wear masks at school?

8. Also, are you OK with your children seeing you scream at school board members and other school officials? Is that how you would want them to behave toward you? Toward their grandparents?

9. Do you think it’s a coincidence that, as Spotlight PA reported last week, the conservative law firm “with ties to former President Donald Trump” that “has led litigation to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential election” is the same firm supporting a lawsuit challenging the Wolf administration’s mask mandate for schools and child care facilities? Is it a coincidence that Republican state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, who joined that lawsuit as a parent, is up for reelection next year?

10. Do you think politics should get in the way of ensuring children’s health? Your own health?

11. President Joe Biden announced Thursday that the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is developing a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to be tested weekly.

Are you aware that OSHA has imposed other standards and directives related to COVID-19? And that the agency requires millions of workers to wear respirators to protect their respiratory systems in workplaces where toxic dust, vapors, gases and sprays are prevalent?

12. Are you aware that some large companies, including Tyson Foods and United Airlines, already mandate COVID-19 vaccination for employees?

13. The Biden administration also will require COVID-19 vaccinations for workers in health care settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement, including hospitals, dialysis facilities and home health agencies. If a dearly loved one was in the hospital, or on dialysis, or being cared for at home, wouldn’t you want to be certain that health care workers wouldn’t make your medically vulnerable loved one sick with COVID-19?

14. Biden also said that OSHA is developing a rule that will require employers with more than 100 employees to provide paid time off for vaccination. Does this alleviate your concern about taking time off work to get inoculated?

15. Of Lancaster County residents who are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination — that is, those age 12 and older — nearly 57% are fully vaccinated. Your physicians most likely are in that majority. Do you trust their understanding of science? Do you heed their advice on other health matters?

16. And, finally, if you’re among those railing against the so-called tyranny of mask mandates and vaccine requirements, what would have been your plan — yes, your plan — to protect your health and that of everyone around you?

You say that individuals should have the freedom to make decisions about their own health. But you’ve made terrible choices and those choices are keeping the rest of us from overcoming the pandemic. Your choices literally are making other people sick. And they are hurting the economy.

One person at the Donegal school board meeting Thursday night said the school mask mandate was related to “the incremental loss of our personal freedom and individual sovereignty.”

But what is liberty without freedom from illness and economic ruin? What is patriotism if it doesn’t include concern for your fellow Americans?

Tell us: Without mask mandates and vaccine requirements, how would you defeat this pandemic? Because pretending it’s not harming us — as individuals, as a community, as a nation — is not working. And neither is getting in the way of those who are trying to do the right thing.

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