An open letter on masks in schools, the legislature

Dear Editor,

What will it take for Southern Local and Eastern Local School Boards to change their illogical decision to decide that masks are not required to be worn in school? Will it be the death of a student or a teacher for them to realize that their decision NOT to protect the health and well-being of all involved in the educational system to be ill conceived and myopic. On the other hand, the school boards of Carleton School and Meigs Local have made the decision to protect their staff and students by mandating that masks be worn inside their buildings and school buses. We commend them for their decisions.

One only need watch the national news to understand that this new Delta variant is attacking young folks more readily than Covid 19 did. Seeing young children hospitalized and on ventilators is alarming. It frightens us to think our own young grandchildren could end up this way and possibly die.

Perhaps you are wondering what steps the Meigs County Health Department is taking to offer guidance to local businesses and schools. On July 13, 2021, Marc Barr, Meigs County Health Department Commissioner, met virtually with school superintendents to share CDC recommendations for K-12 schools and said that the Pfizer vaccine was available for students age 12 and older via the MCHD. He recommended that “Meigs schools follow the current CDC recommendations considering the health and safety of both students and faculty.” On September 10, 2021, Commissioner Barr sent an email alert to school superintendents, mayors, businesses and all government agencies in the county. Essentially, he shared the most recent COVID Census and warned that region 7’s total number of COVID patient numbers were at an all-time high. He then recommended that people be vaccinated if age eligible and to wear masks while indoors.

So why did he only recommend, instead of mandating that masks be worn indoors? The answer lies a hundred miles from here in Columbus with the Ohio Senate Bill 22 sponsored by Senators Rob McColley and Terry Johnson, and with support from our House State Representative Jay Edwards and Senator Frank Hoagland, who both voted to pass the bill. On June 23, 2021, these senators took health control matters out of the governor’s and the local health department’s hands. The Meigs County Health Department can no longer say that we must all wear masks indoors to protect the health of everyone. This bill essentially negates the important job that is entrusted to our local health department: to protect us in time of this pandemic. Sadly, the legislature chooses to ignore the consequences of their decisions and fails to acknowledge the impact it is having on the state and our own county.

Senate Bill 22 blocks the health department from issuing any kind of stay-at-home order or to mandate wearing masks to protect each other. The bill also gives the 132 lawmakers the power to overturn health orders or emergency declarations without needing the governor’s approval. This bill essentially nullifies decisions made by health officials when their guidance is most needed. It also lets lawmakers overturn mask mandates with a “concurrent resolution,” that leaves out the governor entirely, while previous law required a 2/3 majority on a bill to overturn the governor’s veto. In essence, the bill removes the Ohio Department of Health director from the final decisions related to our health.

The legislature has decided that the freedom not to wear a mask is more important than the health and safety of its citizens. In this COVID era, Patrick Henry’s phrase, “Give me liberty or give me death” might mean liberty equals death for many.

The American Medical Association, The New England Journal of Medicine and the Center of Disease Control all report that masks ARE an effective, inexpensive method to prevent COVID spread. Why not listen to these educated researchers instead of those who value personal freedoms over the health and safety of our children?

Joy Bentley of Syracuse

Also signing on with support for this letter:

John Bentley

Rita Slavin

Celia McCoy

Ron and Charlene Rutherford

Leah Jean and Bob Ord

Barbara Rostad

Josephine Hill

Jim Nally

Tom and Kathy Reed

Dana Kessinger

Ellie Blaettnar

Karen Williams

Bernadette Anderson and Pomeroy Mayor Don Anderson

Becky Triplett

Kyle and Lisa Ord

Dave and Jeanne Bowen

Debbie Jones

Allison Barnett

Sue Maison

Barbara Beegle

James Witherell, MD and Jeanie Witherell

William Young