NICOLE RUSSELL: Just say NO to any and all new Covid mandates

Covid-19 is back, as we knew it would be eventually. According to the Centers for Disease Control, another Covid variant, may be even better at causing breakthrough infections. Covid-related hospitalizations are increasing, though they're nowhere near what they were even at the pandemic's height. Some schools in South Texas and Kentucky have canceled classes for a few days to fight the surge of Covid infections of teachers.

If we've learned anything about Covid it's that how we handle the virus can be just as bad, if not worse, than the disease itself. Despite common sense — that typically a generally healthy society would only quarantine the ill, the immuno-compromised, and the elderly — state, local, and federal authorities did the opposite. During the original pandemic, authorities shut down local economies, shuttered schools and churches, and mandated masks, distancing, and encouraged the population to quarantine indoors.

We must not give in to Covid mandates again, and we must also resist any state or federal officials' urge to shutter parts of the economy, churches, or especially —- dear God, especially — schools. Two principles must guide people now: their natural rights as citizens and the risk/benefit ratio of giving in (or holding out).

For starters, the CDC estimates that 97 percent of people in the US have some Covid-19 immunity to Covid-19, either due to receiving the vaccine, getting the infection organically, or both. This should mitigate a lot of the panic, hysteria, or anxiety around this second wave. This is good news that we could not factor into our risk-taking analysis during the first wave.

We also now have a myriad of data suggesting that children are not as affected by Covid-19 as we thought when we first closed schools, and the risk of staff getting infected seems less likely, since most, if not all teachers and administrators received one or more vaccinations. Shutting down schools for even a week at a time, let alone more, seems like the risk of learning loss outweighs the risk of Covid infections. 

In fact, if we've learned anything recently about the pandemic, it's that the Covid-related learning loss for kids is worse than we thought. Schools not only shut down entirely, but when they reopened, often they required kids who had been "exposed" to a child with a positive test to quarantine for 10-14 days causing additional learning loss.

A McKinsey article suggests that "two decades of math and reading progress have been erased," and that "If student performance improvement follows historical pre-pandemic trends, it could take decades for students to fully catch up." In 17 states, the average student is over six months behind. We've since learned that kids in high-poverty areas were hit the hardest and that remote learning was a joke. Schools should not be shut more than a few days during this second wave, no matter what. Our next generation cannot afford the added learning loss.

Rather than quarantine for months at a time, we've since learned that remaining indoors and breathing recycled air is one of the worst ways to combat the virus. We know now that getting fresh air and sunshine are vital to helping the body combat disease. While mask mandates were enforced during the initial pandemic, there was a bizarre belief that most people had access to hospital-quality masks, like N95's. They did not. Most people were wearing flimsy paper masks and we've since learned that mandating everyone wear them is "not based on sound data."

Finally, we should be more than wary of any official who attempts to shut down the economy again, especially in the cherry-picked way Dr. Anthony Fauci did. Fauci deemed some work essential and some work non-essential, though he had no right to do so. Box stores like Target remained open because they contained items essential to a person's life but small businesses like "Joe's Pizza Shop" in New York had to close down because it was deemed non-essential. Data on this varies, but one study shows that "35 percent of small businesses that were operational in February 2020 are still closed more than one year later" and Yelp data showed that 60 percent of businesses that closed during the pandemic never reopened. 

We didn't know exactly how to handle the pandemic when it first hit, but with the Covid-19 virus emerging again in different iterations, we now know what's right and what's wrong, what works and what didn't. We must never succumb to pandemic-era mandates again that would seek to close businesses, houses of worship, and schools. Our rights must remain intact and we must be allowed to quantify our own risk/benefit analysis.

Image: Title: children masked by ©Prostock-studio via


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