We really need a mask mandate at every school district

Or we can just accept a lot more hospitalized kids. Easy choice if you ask me.

The number of Texas children hospitalized with COVID-19 hit an all-time high over the weekend, with 345 on Saturday and 307 on Sunday, the highest two-day stretch recorded during the pandemic, according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The data follows a national trend of rising pediatric COVID hospitalization rates. A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Friday shows the highest rate of increase among teenagers and children 0-4 years old. The study also found unvaccinated adolescents were 10 times more likely to need hospitalization compared to their vaccinated peers.

Children under 12 are ineligible for any of the available COVID-19 vaccines.

School reopenings and “pandemic fatigue” are two primary reasons for the statewide increase, said Dr. Katelyn Jetelina, an epidemiologist at UTHealth School of Public Health in Dallas and author of the popular blog “Your Local Epidemiologist.”

“The more that kids interact with each other, the more this is going to transmit,” she said, adding, “We really need to step up our mask game. Parents really need to invest in good masks to wear for their school.”

She urged parents to buy N95 masks for their children and to “lead by example” with their own mask-wearing habits.

Multiple studies have shown masks help reduce COVID transmission indoors. The CDC study also recommends universal masking in schools, where cases are soaring in Texas. The state health department on Aug. 29 recorded 51,904 COVID cases among Texas students since the 2021-22 school year began.

I mean, we’re a year and a half into this pandemic. We do know all this stuff already. I get that some people are tired of doing pandemic things, but 1) if said person is not vaccinated then they can just STFU right now, as this is all their fault, and 2) as the kids say, we may be done with the pandemic but it’s not done with us.

Thankfully, HISD is doing it right.

While outbreaks have forced some districts to close schools already, Houston ISD has fared comparatively well two weeks into its school year.

By midday Friday, the state’s largest district of nearly 200,000 students had confirmed 1,085 active cases among students and staffers, according to its dashboard.

The most important mitigation strategy the district could implement is one it already has in place — ensuring people wear masks, Superintendent Millard House II said Thursday.

“As we look at the data in our schools, yes we have COVID cases,” House said during an agenda review meeting. “But if we look at the percentage of spread in our schools in comparison to the number of kids that we have, it looks — it does not look bad in comparison to some of the other schools that don’t have mandates in place.”

Health professionals agree the mask mandate may be helping HISD reduce the risk transmission inside its classrooms, even as kids younger than 12 remain ineligible to be inoculated and the delta variant continues to spread mostly unchecked in the Houston area.

“I attribute it to that,” said Dr. Quianta Moore, Huffington Fellow in child health policy at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. “There are some schools that the parents and the community are wearing masks and they are also having low transmission.”

As I said before, I don’t want to get overconfident, but again, we know that masking helps. Given the risks, the current legal status, and the complete lack of consequences for defiance, I can’t think of any good reason for a school district to not have a mask mandate in place. We’re either trying or we’ve given up.

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One Response to We really need a mask mandate at every school district

  1. policywonqueria says:

    Dear Honorable Justices of the Texas Supreme Court:

    I have not been compensated by anyone for the preparation and filing of this amicus letter brief.

    It has been a week since I pleaded with this Court to modify its determination of the status quo since it is destroying the health and well-being of our children, staff, teachers and all who come in contact with them. The covid variant count has skyrocketed to 4,711 new cases a day and average 16, 953 in a seven-day period. Just in sync with the opening of schools with no mandatory mask orders allowed to be enforced. Just how many will get severely ill and /or die? And so many schools have shut down and all learning has stopped.

    Even though this Court has not accepted the suggestion that they immediately decide the merits of all these lawsuits, since the law is clear and unambiguous, as are the relevant facts, would this Court at least reflect upon my prior statement by viewing just one part of one section of the 1975 Disaster Act?

    Chapter 418.1015(a)-(b) states that local subdivisions are an agent of the Governor to enforce executive orders, but it continues to state in a separate sentence that local subdivisions:

    “may exercise the powers granted to the governor under this chapter on an appropriate local scale.”

    That means a local subdivision order has the force and effect of law, see Chapter 418.012 and the Governor has no authority to suspend any portion of it, Chapter 418.016(a).

    Therefore, is this Court willing to stand by its analysis that when a local subdivision pursuant to its express powers adopts an order that meets the dangers of the declared disaster and is designed to prevent bodily harm and/or death, must be legally gutted during the period of time the Judiciary takes to determine whether it is valid?

    Particularly when the Governor has no express power to suspend or forbid it?

    And the result of that is illness, severe illness and death of our children, parents, extended families, and the general public? We have a crisis growing with all indications it will be more severe than the one of the winter-spring of 2020.

    Why is the Court feeding the fire when it can act or at the least designate the status quo as of the date each local subdivision order was issued and/or effective? These orders must be effective now with the power to enforce them. Even the Judiciary cannot and must not ignore a pandemic.

    We are all counting on this Court to apply the law as mandated by the law and facts.


    Ron Beal
    Professor Emeritus & Attorney at Law

    9/7/2021 2:10 PM

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