The Good Book says in Philippians 2:3 that we should “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”Like many other parents in Madison County, I was surprised to hear our local Board of Education intended to risk the health of our children, and the community at large, by not requiring masks in school for the 2021-2022 school year. While the vast majority of medical experts agree that facemasks help to decrease the spread of communicable diseases, such as the Delta variant of COVID-19, our own local Board of Education chose to prioritize normalcy over the safety of our community.Superintendent Gilliam had previously indicated that the optional mask policy for this upcoming school year was born from the change in the Healthy at School Guidelines, which was rescinded by the Kentucky Department of Education pursuant to Gov. Andy Beshear’s Executive Order 2021-386 (EO 2021-386) that he signed on June 11, 2021. At the time the executive order was signed, Madison County was considered a “yellow” county, which means we only had 1-10 confirmed Covid-19 cases per 100,000 (Madison County had 92,987 according to the 2019 Census). By August 10, 2021, Madison County had more than doubled that figure with over 25 confirmed cases per 100,000 which places our county in the “red” critical stage of spread.
The Cabinet for Health and Family Services has issued recommendations for “red” counties which admonishes leaders in “red” counties to “encourage masking as an effective way to reduce spread.” On August 5, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a guidance recommending universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools regardless of vaccination status. As I was writing this article, Governor Andy Beshear announced a state-wide mandatory mask mandate for schools and daycares. Thank God for a Governor who listens to our community of medical experts. Still, Madison County should not have to be saved from its own local leaders. This policy is a good reminder that we need local leaders who will look to experts of each field to keep us safe. An optional mask policy is asinine. Who will wear masks? Those who take the health of others seriously and usually the kids of those who have already been vaccinated. Who won’t wear masks? Those who put their “right to choose” above the health and well-being of their compatriots, and the children of those who have chosen not to get vaccinated. Those who pose the most risk will not wear masks unless they are required to do so. We should be our brothers’ keepers.
I get it. We are all ready for a return to normal. We are all ready for teachers and students to be able to read each other’s faces, and this pandemic has been very hard on both. As a brother to a Gifted and Talented Student Coordinator, I get it: education has not been the same, and it has been grueling. But as a brother to a Georgetown Pediatrician, a son to a Nurse Manager in Lexington, and a brother to an Advanced Practice Nurse in Lexington, I understand how our school board’s failure to implement a mandatory mask policy would have risked the lives of not only our children and our teachers, but unnecessarily risked our frontline healthcare workers and their families as well. As a father of two young men who attend local public schools, the optional mask policy was unacceptable. As a lawyer, the optional mask policy would have been grossly negligent and invited costly litigation.
What was the compelling reason for this dangerous policy? Politics? I’m admittedly no genius, but I’m still trying to figure that one out. Local elections matter.
This article was written by Rob Morrin. Rob Morrin is an attorney at Morrin Law Office in Richmond, KY.
*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of WBON staff or personnel.