The executive order signed last week by Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida banning local school boards from requiring students to wear masks in schools in that state rates as one of the most reprehensible actions of any public official since the pandemic began.
Thanks to DeSantis’s lack of leadership and nutty pronouncements throughout the course of the pandemic, Florida now rates as one of the biggest hotspots for the coronavirus in the world, accounting alone for almost 20% of the daily infections in the U.S. and recently breaking its own one-day record for infections.
Predictably, the state’s healthcare system is being swamped by COVID-19 patients, who are dying at a rate that is 10 times greater than New York City’s.
DeSantis’s order fails to recognize two basic facts:
First, although the rate of serious illness among children who catch COVID remains low, more than 19,000 children have been hospitalized with coronavirus in 24 states and New York City as of July 22, according to a database from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.
That is a large number and it surely will spike when children return to school indoors.
Second, DeSantis’s order fails to acknowledge that while masks afford some protection to the mask-wearer, the primary benefit accrues to everyone else who is around the mask-wearer, whose aerosols are contained within the mask, rather than being spread around a room unimpeded where they linger to be inhaled by another person.
Maskless students needlessly risk infecting their teachers, classmates, and staff members, as well as the family members and everyone else who comes into contact with anyone who is at those schools.
In short, the reopening of schools without adherence to the COVID-19 precautions that we’re all familiar with will become a superspreader event in every community in Florida, even among the vaccinated, thanks to the highly-contagious Delta variant.
However, it is the basic false premise of DeSantis’s executive order — that parents know what is best for their children’s health — that is the most harmful aspect of his reasoning.
Typical parents are not the best caregivers for their children’s health for the simple reason that they are not medical experts, especially when it comes to COVID-19.
While we will concede that most parents love their children, it also is undeniable that parents who are not following the guidelines set forth by the CDC and the American Society of Pediatricians (which are recommending mask-wearing in schools) are sacrificing their children’s health on the altar of their political views.