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Letter to the editor: Masking on school buses

Dear Icon Readers, 

Once again, the Ada school board has shown that they are more interested in political posturing than in the safety of the students and staff of the schools. In an action that can only best be described as the definition of "too little, too late," the school board will now require children to wear masks on the bus, and has implemented a "tiered" approach to masking and mitigating the spread of the novel coronavirus and its many variants. All of this could have easily been avoided had they simply decided to require masks of all students and staff from the beginning of the school year. This is the approach that has been taken by many other school districts and institutions of higher education (one of which is the workplace of one of the board members, who likely has to wear a mask while at work). Yet, this simple and effective method of preventing the spread of the coronavirus has repeatedly been ignored and downplayed by a majority of the school board. As far as I know, none of the school board members have a degree or training in public health, and none of them are medical doctors with knowledge in epidemiology. Why then are we allowing them to make decisions regarding our children's safety, when experts from pediatric medicine (leaders of the nation's children's hospitals) and public health (the Centers for Disease Control) have urged the public again and again to wear masks while indoors, even if vaccinated, to prevent the spread of the virus. 

Contrary to the concerns and complaints of some parents (and board members), there is no evidence to show that masks are ineffective when used properly, nor is their compelling evidence that masks cause breathing issues in otherwise healthy individuals. Masks may not be recommended for a small group of people based on their pre-existing breathing problems, but that is the very reason that the rest of us need to wear masks. Our wearing of masks will prevent us from accidentally spreading the virus to those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. Instead of listening to professionals and the research produced by experts in the field, the majority of the school board continues to politicize this issue for the sake of those who are loudly protesting that mask-wearing takes away their God-given freedoms. Since when has being able to potentially cause harm to another person been a freedom? How long has the ability to disregard the health, safety, and greater good of society been enshrined in the constitution? I don't remember reading those rights in the Bill of Rights, nor do I find any evidence in the scriptures of my faith (or any other) that suggests that it is moral and good to put others at risk in order to avoid a minor inconvenience on my part. These so-called "rights" exist only in the minds of those who selfishly disregard their neighbors, family, and friends in order to earn points in a made-up political game. 

Founding Father Thomas Jefferson may have summed it up best when he wrote, "Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within the limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others." The "equal rights of others" to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are infringed upon when anti-mask elements in society seek personal freedom over communal good. With or without a mandate, rule, law, or policy set by the school board, all of us should want to do our part by getting vaccinated, wearing masks, and following the advice of scientific experts, so that we can emerge from this pandemic healthier, wiser, and more compassionate than we currently are toward one another. Wearing a mask is a minor inconvenience compared to the potential death of a teacher, staff member, or (God forbid) a child in our community because of the callous disregard of those who seek personal freedom over the greater good. I urge the school board once again to consider requiring all students, staff, faculty, and visitors to our schools to wear masks, and even more fervently, I ask my fellow residents of Ada to consider doing the right thing and wear a mask indoors, even if no one tells you that you have to do so.

Yours Sincerely,

David E. MacDonald