Hartstein: Let our schools focus on learning by keeping kids, teachers healthy
The COVID-19 pandemic is, sadly, still something we all need to deal with locally in our schools as we face the new school year. Though there may be some different viewpoints on what the protocols should be, I strongly believe that having a uniform approach in all of our schools is a good thing. Most importantly we need to have our kids back in school and as safe as possible.
Having a statewide mandate requiring masks for all students ensures we can have our local districts focusing on education and not having skirmishes diverting the attention of the school boards.
The governor's decision in that regard should be applauded and fully adhered to; it is consistent with recent recommendations from the CDC. The fact remains that the most recent strain is known to spread more easily and more rapidly. Though there is much that we don't know about this dreadful pandemic, experience from around the nation tells us that though kids may often get less severe cases of COVID and have earlier been shown to be less likely to get it, they still get it and can spread it to others. We know that kids 12 and older who are eligible to get vaccines will be significantly protected and should get vaccine, but could still get virus and convey it to others.
The bottom line is that the mask mandate is simple common sense and can impede the spread of COVID in our schools. The health of our kids should be the driving factor. This is not politics. This is health.
This is not a question of whether some would prefer not to wear masks but a matter of the need to wear them to reduce the possibility of spreading from kid to kid.
For those who argue mask wearing should be optional, they need to realize that exposing our kids to COVID is not an acceptable option. They need to realize that one case might affect countless other kids and their education. Even my 4-year-old grandson fully understands the need to wear his mask on when at preschool "till the germs go away."
Things are currently getting worse with each recent week. The statistics shared by the American Academy of Pediatrics recently on Meet the Press showed the weekly COVID cases in children jumped from 16% or 23,551 cases the week of July 8 to 19% of the cases or 71,725 cases the week of July 22. We need to be vigilant and fully support the mask mandate in our schools.
We likewise need to get all of our kids fully vaccinated if and when they are eligible.
Moving the ball and enhancing health protection in our schools dictates that our local districts should strongly consider requiring those vaccinations for eligible students just as other vaccinations have been required for years, and similarly requiring vaccinations for all teachers. Let's keep our kids and teachers safe and let our schools concentrate on education and learning.
• Elliott Hartstein of Northbrook is an attorney and a former Buffalo Grove village president.