To the Editor:
A pandemic is based on facts. A “panicdemic” is based on fears. Today, we have both, in which facts and fears about masks are based on science and/or beliefs.
As the Delta variant surges across the nation, schools and communities struggle with the issue of masks for teachers, staff, and students. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend universal indoor masking for all students ages 2 and older, staff, teachers, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. Some states have banned school mask mandates, saying decisions should be made by parents, while others require masks. These rules change often, which we can see in the infographic, “Which States Ban Mask Mandates in Schools, and Which Require Masks?” (Sept. 8, 2021).
But perhaps for some school leaders today, this crisis is not only a pandemic or a panicdemic, it is also personal. While some have read about the effects of COVID-19, others have lived the devastating consequences. After having dialogues with school leaders, I leave them with this question to ponder: If a student or staff member were to die today due to transmission in your schools because no prudent precautions (such as vaccinations and masks) had been implemented, how would you sleep tonight?
Adjunct Assistant Professor
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University
A version of this article appeared in the September 22, 2021 edition of Education Week as School Mask Mandates: Pandemic, ‘Panicdemic,’ or Personal?