A number of states have announced the imminent end of their school mask mandates. Driving the push to protect America’s children from the damage masks can do is an army of concerned moms who want their children’s lives to go back to normal. Caroline Downey reports in National Review:
Every afternoon when they arrive home from kindergarten, Emma Burnett’s twin five-year-old daughters complain about how difficult it was to breathe in their masks all day.
Burnett, like many moms in Connecticut, was very Covid-19 conscious at first, accepting the state restrictions as a necessary evil to combat the spread of an ominous disease.
But as the Delta wave came and went in the fall of 2021, vaccine uptake soared, and scientific data supporting school masking started to dwindle, all while the teachers’ unions continued to insist that kids had to cover their faces for their individual and collective safety, something didn’t sit right with Burnett and other moms.
Given the countervailing evidence, the long-held consensus that masking in K-12 protects children and the community from the virus started to unravel, prompting many parents across the country to ask their Democratic-controlled states and school districts the same question: “Why haven’t you adjusted the rules in response?”
Outrage over the inflexibility of local authorities hit home especially hard in the New York City suburb of Darien, Conn.
There, a small grassroots movement of parents, each with emotional stories to share about the collateral damage their children have suffered due to masks, came together and launched Mask Choice, an Instagram page advocating an end to the school mask mandate in Connecticut. Hoping to make a splash in their little town, they had no idea that their message would spread far and wide.
In a sudden success, the account’s follower count exploded from about 150 in August, 2021, when it first launched, to 1,000 just last month, according to Caroline Montero, who started the first account in Darien, Conn. Her account went viral after she posted damning photos and emails exposing children’s poor treatment at school under the Covid-19 rules.
In one email, prompted by a mother’s inquiry about how snack time works during the day, a teacher, calling herself the “mask police,” responded that she permits “about seven minutes of chew time” for kids to have a snack, according to documents Montero provided to National Review.
From there, the parents’ anti-mandate campaign caught on like wildfire, with Mask Choice accounts popping up all over Connecticut, then the Tri-State Area, and then across the map from Maryland to Virginia to Massachusetts to Michigan. Accounts linked to Connecticut towns such as Darien, New Canaan, and Fairfield now lead in popularity with over 1,000 followers each. There are now over 200 Mask Choice accounts in the Tri-State Area alone.
While each chapter is independent and focused on its respective locality, the Connecticut groups have effectively formed a loose coalition, with some towns even sending members to support each other’s rallies, Alexandra Sullivan, a mom and member of the New Canaan group, told National Review.
As for the reason behind the Mask Choice boom, “Omicron busted it wide open,” Sullivan said. The new highly infectious variant proved that the virus wasn’t discriminating based on masking, vaccine status, social distancing, or other Covid-19 mitigation strategies, she said. It didn’t matter whether only three kids were at a table six feet apart at lunchtime or whether all or no classroom windows were open in mid-winter. The virus was spreading rapidly, and the vast majority of children were still avoiding severe outcomes.
As masks, especially the cloth variety used by so many kids, increasingly appeared ineffective, parents began pointing out that children had been needlessly bearing their brunt of pandemic mitigation measures for two straight years, Sullivan added. Parent testimonies poured in as the Mask Choice Instagram accounts proliferated. Kids had been struggling with speech delays, skin irritation, poor vision due to foggy glasses, sensory issues, and more. Children with autism and Bell’s palsy fared even worse.
“Every family and town have been suffering in unique [ways]. Masks might be okay for one family but not for all, that’s why we’re asking for choice. Families should have the right to choose what to do with their children. Masks are not one-size-fits-all,” Sullivan said.
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