OPINION: It’s not Halloween. Take off the masks.
The masks need to come off.
Thursday, July 23, 2020, Governor Mike DeWine issued a state mask mandate for all Ohio citizens over the age of 10. This mandate impacts all Ohioans in all 88 counties and has been in place for 96 days as of October 27, 2020.
Mask mandates are very common across the country including 33 states and the District of Columbia with mandates in place. (Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves allowed his state’s mandate to expire on September 30, 2020, after a decline in COVID-19 cases.)
Perrysburg High School sophomore Meagan Hilleary believes that students and the general public should not be mandated to wear masks; rather, masking is a personal decision, she says.
“If someone has an immune system deficiency or are often around someone that does, and they feel [masking] would be beneficial, then sure,” Hilleary said of wearing a mask.
She states that in some cases masks are doing more harm than good.
“Masks can be a major issue for some people,” Hilleary said. She claimed she knows someone personally who has panic attacks if masked for too long but is not allowed to take it off during the 8-hour school day. “This day can be seriously dangerous,” Hilleary said.
Before the July 23 mask mandate, DeWine declared Ohio in a state of emergency on March 9, 2020.
Ohio is currently still in a state of emergency – but should we be?
According to Hilleary at least, Ohioans shouldn’t have to live under the fear of a state of emergency.
“All it is doing is keeping people scared. Covid-19 and the flu are the same species of virus [author’s note: Covid-19 and the flu are different viruses with similar symptoms] which means it will likely return in spring. We cannot and should not stay like this for the rest of our lives,” Hilleary said.
Ohio House Republicans share Hilleary’s sentiments, feeling that the emergency order should end. They proposed the “Restore Ohio Now” (RON) bill which would end many of DeWine’s orders regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the RON bill is still in process, there is another aspect Ohioans’ frustrations regarding how masks have been handled in Ohio.
Northwest Ohio parents filed a lawsuit against Ohio’s interim health director Lance Himes, who made the ultimate decision requiring K-12 students in the area to wear masks schools this year.
Similar lawsuits against Himes have been filed in other regions of Ohio as well.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states, “WHO and UNICEF advise that children aged 12 and over should wear a mask under the same conditions as adults, in particular when they cannot guarantee at least a 1-metre distance from others and there is widespread transmission in the area.”
They state that masks should be worn under the same conditions as adults; however, they also add that this is especially the case when children can not be 3 feet (1 meter) away from each other.
The note of the “at least 3 feet away from each other” brings a question to light: why are students required to wear masks in the classroom?
Students’ desks in the classrooms have all been distanced from each as outlined in part by seating students in every other seat.
Hilleary says if students are socially distanced that should not be mandated to wear masks.
“Our governor stated that we don’t need our masks on if we are social distancing and the desks are distanced so it’s useless to keep our masks on. It doesn’t benefit us,” Hilleary said.
The hybrid schedule also helps with distancing. Students are on one of two “teams.” Gold team attends in-person classes Tuesdays and Thursdays while learning virtually Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; the Black team attends in-person classes Wednesdays and Fridays, learning virtually on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
PHS was previously an extremely collaborative environment. Currently students now are only permitted to work in physical groups with partners for less than a 15-minute period.
Perrysburg Exempted Village School District (PEVS) follows the guidance of the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Department of Education which requires all K-12 students to wear a mask. Nevertheless, PEVS has seen a total of 18 positive students and six staff members across Hull Prairie Intermediate, Perrysburg Junior High School and Perrysburg High School as of October 15.
At the high school, 13 students and four staff have tested positive so far this school year. Data as recent as October 15 shows that 99 high school students have had to quarantine during this school year.
Hilleary leaves a final statement:
“We can not keep living in a state of eternal fear, it isn’t smart.”
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