Is Biden right to take 'legal actions' against gov's banning mask mandates?


Fact Box

  • On Wednesday, August 18, 2021, President Biden instructed the Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to use full authority and explore “legal action” against the governors blocking school mask mandates. 
  • Eight US states, Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Florida, South Carolina, Texas and Utah have laws prohibiting schools from requiring mask mandates as of August 10, 2021. 
  • Over half of the US population has been fully vaccinated as of Thursday, August 19, 2021, with 60.2 percent having at least one dose. 
  • The Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) announced new guidelines on July 27, 2021 for vaccinated people. It is recommended to wear a mask in public indoor areas with high transmission rates, to get tested if experiencing symptoms, and follow regular protocols for exposure. 
  • The Delta variant of COVID-19 first arose in India at the end of 2020, and has recently spread to countries across the globe. The current variant is reported to have a shorter incubation period of four days rather than six days with a higher number of viruses making it much more aggressive than the original virus.

Andrew (Yes) 

President Biden explained his rationale behind directing his Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, by rightly saying, “We’re not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children.” Biden’s position makes sense because masking is an effective tool in the fight against the coronavirus. The CDC has recommended that all children aged two and over mask up. It’s no secret that the virus is spreading wildly in states where vaccination levels are low and masks are unpopular; why would any governor concerned with the safety of their state want to take away an effective tool? Unfortunately, the answer is politics. While many of these governors are using the mask issue to fire up their conservative bases, President Biden is working to keep children and families safe.

Some people have wrongly hypothesized that wearing masks could adversely affect children in the long term, both mentally and in their education. First, America’s youth has demonstrated remarkable resilience through the many adaptations they’ve made throughout the pandemic. Secondly, mask-wearing may just be the tool that lowers the Delta spread, allowing in-person classes to continue. In other words, the small inconvenience of wearing a mask when cases rise may allow for a much more normal routine for America’s schoolchildren. Governors who have banned mask mandates may just be responsible for prolonging the pandemic and keeping schoolchildren away from their normal learning routines longer. Knowing this, the Biden Administration should pursue every avenue, including legal options, to stop these risky and unnecessary bans. 


Veronica (No) 

States such as Florida that have banned mask mandates are not preventing children and teachers from wearing masks or taking precautions against infection. The various orders only say that a school cannot force someone to wear a mask if that person (or parents) considers it detrimental to them. Banning mask mandates leaves the decision whether to mask up to individual parents, and it should not be the federal government’s place to overrule that. Many parents are concerned about the negative psychological, emotional, and social effects of long-term mask-wearing on children—particularly children already behind in social or lingual abilities. Masking could delay the development of necessary skills and prevent children from meeting key neurological developmental milestones

While cases have increased with the Delta variant, deaths have not increased at the same rate suggesting that we do not need the same level of precautions as before. Among children, the mortality rate remains remarkably low (0.00%-0.03%). Additionally, studies show that mask mandates did not slow the spread of COVID-19 last year, so if the Delta variant is even more contagious, why would masks help now? 

Biden and his Education Secretary argue that prohibiting mask mandates is a civil rights violation because it could deny students their right to an education. However, these states are not preventing anyone from wearing masks. You could equally argue that it is a civil rights violation to force someone to wear a mask to participate in education. If Biden is truly concerned about the greater good, he should consider the millions of children who could be permanently harmed or traumatized by these mandates and policies.

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