By Connie Pillsbury

For starters, let’s take a look at three recent studies asking, ‘Which States Have the Most Freedom?’ From the Cato Institute, The World Population Review, and Hughes Capital, the consistent rank on Overall Freedom for California is 48th. 

That means there are 47 states out there with better economic policies, fewer regulatory policies, more personal freedom, and more overall freedom. 

So it should not be a surprise that we are knee-deep in a mask battle in California where the Department of Public Health and the Governor are requiring every K-12 student to wear a mask indoors at school. This one-size-fits-all for six million school children of widely varying school districts is both contentious and unreasonable. 

Getting through this together, Atascadero

In the best of all worlds, each local school district would have the authority to select the appropriate mask option for their constituency. What are the local statistics? Are local hospitalization and COVID-case ICU rates high? What is the county vaccination rate? Is their district in a crowded inner-city or rural setting?  

For example, take a look at San Luis Obispo County Aug. 3 statistics at readyslo.org

Number of young people aged 0-19 that have died of Covid since the beginning of pandemic – zero (0) in San Luis Obispo County. Number of ICU beds being used for COVID patients today [Aug. 9] – three (3). ICU bed availability – 63 percent. County vaccination rate: 58.5 percent fully vaccinated, 66.1 percent partially vaccinated. Add to that the 21,605 residents with natural immunity who have had the virus and recovered. 

With those statistics, there would be no need for local districts to impose a mask mandate on K-12 students. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics says there is still no definitive research showing the delta variant more harmful to children. 

“Dr. Jennifer Lighter, pediatric infectious disease specialist at NYU Langone Health, said the delta variant, while it is “certainly more contagious,” doesn’t appear to be more dangerous to children than other variants. Dr. Jim Versalovic, pediatrician-in-chief at Texas Children’s Hospital, said, “We have no firm evidence that the disease severity in children and adolescents is any different with the delta variant.” (nbcnews.com)

Keep in mind that the CDC estimates 416 children (0-18 years) have died from COVID-19 in 18 months, while they estimate 477 children (0-18) died from influenza during the 12 months 2019-20 flu season. The 2012-13 flu season recorded 1,161 deaths (0-17 years.) Does anyone remember masks in those years? 

Further reasoning against mask mandates comes from Johns’ Hopkins professor Dr. Marty Makary. He states, “The possible psychological harm of masking is an even greater worry. Facial expressions are integral to human connection, particularly for young children. Covering a child’s face mutes nonverbal forms of communication and can result in robotic, emotionless interactions, anxiety, and depression. (The Case Against Masks for Children, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 9, A15)

But, alas, this is not the best of all worlds, and our North County school districts are not autonomous. They do not have the power or freedom to respond to local statistics and needs. Sadly, they are hostages to state mandates and liability insurance requirements and left with no options other than ‘obeying.’ 

So, what do parents do? 

For parents who do NOT want their children in masks on the first day of school, here are a few ideas, which I realize will be controversial, as there are many sides to this discussion: 

  1. Get a mask waiver from your pediatrician, GP, dentist, ophthalmologist, or allergist on the basis of breathing and medical problems, skin and rash, hearing, vision or dental limitations, emotional and mental health, or special needs. 
  2. Encourage your district to set up as much class time outside as possible. Ask local event supply companies to donate tents for elementary campuses. Templeton district is actively pursuing this outdoor option.
  3. Until the mask mandate is dropped in your district, pull your children out of government schools and any schools requiring masks. School ‘census day’ is Oct. 6, when funding ($9000 per student) is calculated for the next school year. Fewer students mean less money. Money talks.
  4. Keep your child out of school until Sept. 14, on the increasing possibility that Gavin Newsom is recalled and a mask choice advocate elected. (Think about it – maybe it’s time to give someone else the opportunity to try new remedies for our state.)
  5. Get active locally to promote mask choice. Attend school board meetings along with the stalwart “Moms for Liberty.” Write your superintendent and school board, asking them to get tough and join with other districts to stand up to Sacramento. Urge your board to adopt the “Let Them Breathe” Resolution toward returning control of education to local districts. 

Regardless of your stance, I think we’d all like to see that Overall Freedom ranking improves in our state. And in case you are wondering which state ranked no. 1, you guessed it, Florida. 

Sources:

https://www.freedominthe50states.org

https://www.hughescapital.com/which-state-has-the-most-freedom/ e-most-freedom/

https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/most-free-states

https://www.letthembreathe.net

http://www.reopencaliforniaschools.com

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/2012-2013.html