Iowa should require masks for all schools

CONTRIBUTED: Recently, the Ft. Atkins, Wisc., school board voted to approve mask mandates for all students and staff. However, it took the death of a teenage student for them to take action.

On Sept. 14, Judge Robert Pratt blocked Iowa’s ban on school mask mandates. Some schools immediately moved to requiring masks. Unfortunately, this block only applies to public K-12 schools. Private schools and higher learning institutions are still forbidden from requiring masks.

Will one of our own have to die before the government takes a stronger stance? Iowa Gov. Reynolds has consistently opposed mask mandates, stating that she trusts Iowans to make their own decisions about their health. Iowa is a COVID red zone again, and the fact that a couple of days ago, a local news outlet reported that 25% of Iowa primary schools currently have active COVID outbreaks proves that trust is misplaced.

But there’s a far more significant issue here that Reynolds is ignoring. Every time anti-maskers go out in public, they’re not just making decisions about their own health. They’re making decisions about the health of everyone around them.

St. Luke’s Hospital and Mercy Hospital have both returned to limiting elective surgeries because of lack of beds and staff shortages due to COVID. According to their statistics, 85% of patients hospitalized with COVID are unvaccinated. The 15% who are vaccinated almost certainly contracted COVID from someone who was not.

The CDC estimates that second-hand smoke kills around 41,000 Americans a year. Yet, you are not allowed to smoke inside public buildings. COVID-19 has killed 673,000 Americans in just two years. That’s one out of every 473 people in America. To put that in perspective, COVID-19 has killed more Americans than all modern wars (including WWII and Vietnam) combined.

People may have the right to make decisions about their own health but as laws against smoking in public demonstrate, they do not have the right to make decisions about the health of others. They do not have the right to create a public health risk for the elderly and others who may be immunocompromised.

Many students on campus have small children at home. The anti-maskers do not have the right to put the lives of those children at risk. They do not have the right to take up beds in ICUs needed by others who are critically ill through no fault of their own, nor do they have the right to force hospitals to ration health care to others who need it.

The irony here is that most of the anti-maskers are also anti-vaxxers. Had they gotten vaccinated to begin with, COVID-19 would be a memory now and we wouldn’t be having this discussion. The people complaining about mask mandates are the people who created the situation that requires them.

People have the right to choose whether to smoke or not. They also have the right not to go out if they can’t resist the urge to smoke. The same is true here. They have the right to decide whether or not to wear a mask. They have the right to choose whether or not to get vaccinated. And if they can’t stand the thought of getting vaccinated or wearing a mask? They have the right to stay home. How many more have to die before the government wakes up?

Categories: Contributed, Opinion