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July 2, 2021 · OPINION

Masks for students should be optional in schools

Stock Photo
By Donna Grove and
Stephanie Litter-Reber

School Board Members

On June 30 at 11:59 p.m., the state of emergency that Virginia had been operating under since March 12, 2020, expired, effectively lifting all restrictions that had been put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also on Wednesday, June 30, JAMA (a monthly peer reviewed medical journal published by the American Medical Association) released a pediatric study assessing carbon dioxide content in inhaled air observed in children with and without masks. The final paragraph of the study states: “A recent review concluded that there was ample evidence for adverse effects of wearing such masks. We suggest that decision-makers weigh the hard evidence produced by these experimental measurements accordingly, which suggest that children should not be forced to wear face masks.”

Armed with both the state of emergency expiration, as well as a peer-reviewed medical study stating that we, as decision-makers, should not be forcing our children to wear masks, Fauquier County Public Schools put out guidance that masks shall be optional going forward. Each family is encouraged to examine their individual situation, weigh their personal risks against benefits and make a decision that best suits their needs.

On Thursday, the state health commissioner released another executive order mandating masks for school-aged children.

No locality should be stuck trying to weigh a state mandate against a peer-reviewed medical study, but here we are.

It is the opinion of these authors that the wearing of masks should remain optional. The decision surrounding whether or not a child should be masked should be made by the parent or guardian based an individual situations in the absence of a state of emergency. The school will support the decision of the parent.

The commonwealth’s executive order specifically states that medical exemptions can be used and no questions can be asked, no documentation can be required. This effectively makes the order optional as it removes the locality’s ability to enforce this order.

In addition, the order states the state health commissioner, acting for the board of health when it is not in session, is vested with authority to make separate orders to meet any emergency.” In the absence of a state of emergency, does this clause hold water?

Our message to the state level decision-makers: Please, get your act together and stop dumping conflicting/questionable guidance and unenforceable executor orders on the localities.

This column represents solely the opinions of the authors, Ms. Grove, who represents Cedar Run District, and Ms. Litter-Reber who represents Lee District on the county’s five-member school board.
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