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Letter: Group supports masks in schools during pandemic

To the Editor

On Friday, Sept., 3 Rebecca Kressin, an active and vocal member of the Freedom Fighters of Central Wisconsin, submitted papers to begin circulating recall petitions for Stevens Point School Board members Ann Vang, Barbara Portzen, Christina Scott, Gee Pope, and Jeffrey Ebel. Ms. Kressin is named here as her petition is public record.
She and her fellow activists accuse district staff of being “too liberal” and preventing conservatives from voicing their views. They also say the district’s curriculum decisions are not transparent enough when it comes to teaching about race and racism. They take issue with the current mask mandate in the Stevens Point Area School District. In a social media post regarding the recall, it was said, by another member of the Freedom Fighters, that the School Board members had acted in a “callous manner.” Remember that word, callous.

As we approach the end of the second year—not month, but year—of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, one that has led to the death of 666,559 Americans, 8,536 Wisconsinites, and 82 Portage County residents, and there’s a group of people looking to recall members of a School Board who, all along, have acted in the interest of inclusivity, diversity, human rights, and health.

Let’s look at what we do know.

Masks work to decrease the spread of COVID by controlling outward aerosol particle emission from expiratory activities. This is a concept as simple as covering your mouth when you sneeze.

According to Sima Asadi, Christopher D. Cappa, William D. Ristenpart in https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-72798-7, “Both surgical masks and unvented KN95 respirators, even without fit-testing, reduce the outward particle emission rates by 90% and 74% on average during speaking and coughing, respectively, compared to wearing no mask.”

It’s not really up for debate. It’s not political, it’s filtration. Some type, almost ANY type, of face-covering will limit outward particle emission.

There are numerous claims from anti-mask groups that masks “don’t work.” These groups use misleading data or only partially relevant articles. Those articles will pertain to the common cold, or the flu, or focus on a mask preventing the wearer from getting ill, rather than the wearer preventing others from getting ill. Someone will undoubtedly link an article about the hierarchy of evidence. They’ll engage in confirmation bias, and link a debunked article from a questionable source, and completely ignore the growing body of evidence that masks do indeed work. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/science-briefs/masking-science-sars-cov2.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fmore%2Fmasking-science-sars-cov2.html

They’ll argue COVID particles are too small and will pass through masks. Yes, that’s true, and they very well might, were they isolated. But COVID particles are never free-floating. They are always bonded to something larger. You can read about COVID particle size and masks here: https://amp.usatoday.com/amp/5343537002

We can take it a step further and look at the very recent results of a large randomized trial that shows surgical masks DO impede the spread of COVID-19.

https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2021/09/surgical-masks-covid-19.html

If we ALL wear masks, especially in confined spaces, there are fewer potentially contaminated aerosolized particles circulating, because our masks catch many of those particles. It’s really that simple.

So what of their other arguments?

They’ll instead argue that masks impede children’s development, though there is zero evidence of that. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/14/well/family/Masks-child-development.amp.html

They’ll argue masks impede speech development. And while there are some arguments to support this, lapel microphones or face shields can negate that risk.

https://publish.illinois.edu/augmentedlistening/face-mask-acoustics/

And lastly, they’ll argue about “personal freedom”. That’s the thing about personal freedoms though—when your individual freedom puts the health and well-being of the many at risk, the health and well-being of many takes precedent. The Supreme Court even ruled on this in the case of Jacobson vs. Massachusetts.

https://www.oyez.org/cases/1900-1940/197us11

There are agreements we make as members of a civilized society. You can own a gun, you can’t shoot someone else with it. You can consume alcohol. But when your consumption exceeds a legal limit you can no longer put others at risk by driving a vehicle under the influence. You can smoke tobacco products, but cannot smoke indoors as it puts others at risk of secondhand smoke inhalation. And you can attend public school, patronize a business or restaurant, attend an event open to the public, etc. But when there’s the potential to infect others with a virus that kills 1 in 67 people who get that virus? Your civic responsibility is to take measures to lessen that risk.

One last thing, because it’s used as an excuse not to act. Percentages. Let’s talk about the percentages. Aside from how completely lacking in empathy, one must be to use the “99.9% survival” rate as an excuse not to act, that’s a misrepresentation of data. As of the evening of Sept. 6, there have been 40,865,794 cases of SARS-CoV-2 in the US. 666,559 of those people have died. That’s a 1.6% mortality rate, meaning that for every 67 people in the US who get COVID-19, 1 will die from it.

Many will shrug their shoulders at that number. They’ll say most of those deaths were elderly people. They’ll claim they don’t know anyone who has died from COVID-19. They’ll use any excuse they can to not do their part in trying to keep those around them from contracting a virus that’s killed millions worldwide.

There’s a word for feeling or showing no sympathy for others. The word is callous.

The Freedom Fighters of Central Wisconsin have made their wishes known.

They may be loud.

They are certainly visible.

They are not the majority.

Do your part. Wear a mask. Get vaccinated. Support efforts within our schools to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Stop the spread, of misinformation, of half-truths, and of COVID-19.

Laurie Lynn
Plover

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