Time to shut the schools back down

Half of all schools in the Albuquerque district have COVID cases; the situation is worse in Rio Rancho

August 31, 2021 5:00 am
student with mask and backpack

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School is back in session, with a lot of our districts going back to in-person learning. This is a good move for children to foster their social interaction. But at the same time, the question of wearing masks has been a heavy topic of discussion. In public schools across New Mexico, masks are required for everyone indoors, on the bus, and at school events, according to the Public Education Department. Outdoors, masks are not required but recommended.  

The Floyd Municipal School District is in the eastern part of the state near Clovis. About a month ago — before the mandate — the Floyd school board voted against PED’s recommendation that kids in school wear masks. So PED suspended the whole Floyd board. (And now, by the way, one of those former board members has COVID.)

Well, what is the big deal with wearing a piece of cloth on your face? People are harping on their “rights,” but they will put a mask on to take a vacation when directed by airlines and when it’s required by private companies and organizations. The big “issue” of not wearing a mask seems like a toddler’s regular temper tantrum. It just does not make any sense, and it doesn’t ring true. 

 You know what is true? 631,000 deaths in the U.S. and over 38 million cases from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And when we say numbers like that, remember that these are mothers, fathers, sisters, aunts, nephews, nieces, partners and cousins who have lost their lives during this pandemic. These are humans who are no longer with us, and yet we sit today to argue over a piece of cloth on our face? 

That anti-mask crowd, it’s actually smaller than it might look ... most adults support mandatory masking in schools, according to an August poll by Axios.

We should listen to the CDC and not lose ourselves to social media memes that seem to give some people the motivation to call themselves experts. The other viral spread — misinformation and disinformation on social media — has caused some people to downplay the seriousness of this pandemic, with folks going to the extreme of calling COVID-19 a hoax. The data is here for us to research, the science is here, we have an entire federal COVID-19 Response Team, and public health officials are working tirelessly to provide information that is vital to the survival of American people. And yet, some still choose memes just because it would be easier if all of this weren’t true. 

But that anti-mask crowd, it’s actually smaller than it might look. Anti-maskers are just really loud about their position, so it looks like there are more of them. Actually, most adults support mandatory masking in schools, according to an August poll by Axios. But the divide cuts politically, so it feels like a war. 

 There’s also a war between vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Here is the thing, if you do not want to get vaccinated, I guess that’s your call, but you cannot go out and pretend that you are vaccinated by not wearing a mask. This is when you are putting other people at risk. There are countless immunocompromised people walking around who do not deserve to be exposed to unvaccinated people. The simple solution is to wear the mask. You get to maintain your right to not be vaccinated — even though it’s a really bad idea — while protecting yourself and others at least a little. 

 When we can’t get it together on masks and vaccines, it’s time to say: Our children do need to be in school, but at what cost? We should just stop while we are ahead and shut the schools back down. Half of all schools in the Albuquerque district now have cases. And up here in Rio Rancho — the third-largest city in the state — we’ve got a confirmed case in every single in-person public school.

Allow the children to go back to online learning. We need to wait for however long it takes until the pandemic subsides. While we wait, we need to encourage people to get vaccinated, wear masks and social distance. I understand that some people may not agree with this, but at the end of the day, it is better for our children to be alive and lack some social skills. 

It is baffling that in a world where so much data is available, we would still choose to regurgitate false information for the sole purpose of pushing our personal beliefs. The bottom line is: People are dying. We have a basic duty as Americans to do what we can to survive.  

We need to encourage our children to wear masks and, as parents, set the example. If we truly believe our children are our future, we need to show them that. The bickering needs to stop, and it needs to stop now. Let’s get real with ourselves: Science has shown us that social distancing and wearing a mask work. It is the least we can do.  Our children deserve better. We need to do better. Wear a mask.

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Barbara Jordan
Barbara Jordan

Founder of People Requiring Equality w/in Systemic Racism (PRESS) New Mexico, Barbara Jordan is a retired combat veteran with 20 years of loyal service to the United States Air Force. She merged her natural humanitarian skills and fire for social justice issues with an emphasis on racial equality to create PRESS New Mexico, named after one of her favorite sayings, “We will press on!” As a Founder of PRESS New Mexico, her vision is to undo systemic racism by creating cultural change leaders who are put in positions to create transformational change. Barbara has been featured in 2020 America Documentary, No More Normal, Albuquerque Journal, Rio Rancho Observer, KUMN, Daily LOBO, New Mexico PBS, Santa Fe New Mexican and Spot on New Mexico. She may be seen on KRQE 13 Albuquerque, KOAT, News Brea and the Santa Fe Reporter. She is the loving mother of son, Devin and a proud native of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. She lives in Rio Rancho.