Universal Mask Mandates

At the heart of debate right now in Chester County, our surrounding counties, and most of the US right now is “how” do we get our kids back in school? And safely?

Universal mask mandates are at the center of that debate right now with people at both ends of the spectrum – from NO MASK to MASKS ALL THE TIME FOR EVERYONE – but most of us are somewhere on the spectrum in between. As a parent of medically complex children – one child with a medical disability worsened by mask mandates and the other being auto-immune compromised – this has become a very personal issue for my family. And it is why I believe in CHOICE for families.

Because what may protect my auto-immune compromised child is damaging to my other child, and as a mother how do you allow one child to be harmed for the sake of the other?

I can’t, and I won’t.

And if you don’t believe me, look no further than my own personal statement yesterday regarding a “No Mask / No Entry” sign at our family dentist.

Which brings us back to the “universal mask mandate”. Below is a summary of the three primary “layered mitigations” employed by schools across our nation.

Face MasksPhysical DistancingDaily Symptom Screening
Common Methods of “Layered Mitigation”

There are spectrums of application for each of these:

  • Face Masks – optional? Required for the unvaccinated or high risk? Universal mandate for all? Etc…
  • Physical Distancing – none? 3′ minimum’? 6′ minimum? Etc…
  • Daily Symptom Screening – none? Honor system? Screened at entry? Etc…

Currently there is NO MASK MANDATE or RECOMMENDATION from the Chester County Health Department. They do encourage layered mitigations, but do not prescribe any specific mitigations be mandated or enforced universally. I had that exact conversation just yesterday with Commissioner Maxwell, and today with Health Director Franklin. To be clear – there is NO MASK MANDATE or RECOMMENDATION from the Chester County Health Department.

One of the most frequent excuses or justifications for a universal mask mandate I hear from others is about not being able to “trust” others to do the right thing. To only not mask if vaccinated. To stay home if symptomatic or feverish.

I get it. Trust is a hard thing. I have trusted every school year for the last 4.5 years that none of my oldest son’s classmates will send their child to school with a fever. A sore throat. Which is why layered mitigations – and not mandates – are a great thing. Some call it the “Swiss Cheese” approach to virus mitigation. Not one layer is a silver bullet. They all have holes.

NYT: The Swiss Cheese Model of Pandemic Defense

So when I say I support choice – what I am advocating for is the choice to apply the layers that are right for you and your child.

Some will choose to apply all the layers. And that’s OK. Some will not be able to do all the mitigations for medical reasons. And that’s OK. And some will choose to make informed choices – whether I or you agree with them or not. And that’s OK.

Because this isn’t a competition. And there are no cash prizes or golden tickets for doing all the “right” things. So where does that leave us, and the West Chester Area School District?

It means for a parent like me – and many like me with medically complex children – we are forced to repeat the arduous process of documenting medical exemptions, negotiating the terms of “accommodation“, and begging for our children to not be discriminated against or have their disabilities diminished or worse… ignored.

Yes. The CDC does have “additional considerations” that says schools should “work with families to better understand the individual needs of students with disabilities.”

CDC: Additional Considerations for K-12 Schools > Disabilities or Other Health Care Needs

If you have a child with a disability, then you may be as exhausted as me. Because I no longer have the time, interest, or energy to explain the ADA to another person.

So what do I propose? I propose choice. Because choice is simple, fundamental and applies to so many things… in person education. Masks. Immunization.

What do others propose? Universal mandates. And monetary incentives to compromise our children’s right to breath. Why not screen at entry? Because that is an option that a million excuses have been made to avoid with no effort to implement a solution.

And we should be asking why? Why force our teachers and staff to be “mask police“? And try to be health department employees doing contract tracing? When it could be as simple as taking a temperature at the door. Sounds too easy, doesn’t it?

For some additional insight into my position on this as a parent and a candidate, please feel free to listen to my public comment at Monday’s Education & Pupil Services committee meeting:

WCASD YouTube: Education & Pupil Services, August 16, 2021

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