For the love of God or another deity, won’t someone make us wear masks?
Sen. John Hickenlooper has COVID — the latest high-profile breakthrough case, showing vaccines alone won’t halt the virus. Unhinged anti-masker and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is infected — and receiving the monoclonal antibody treatment out of reach for most Americans, proving the hypocrisy of science deniers knows no bounds.
Hospital beds are filling rapidly across the country and here in Colorado. UCHealth announced Aug. 18 that “in the last month, the number of patients hospitalized at UCHealth’s 12 hospitals has doubled,” adding almost all of the new patients have been infected with the Delta variant.
Children’s Hospital Colorado reports overall inpatient volumes are running more than 20 percent higher than normal for this time of year. Pediatric intensive care volumes are 60 percent higher than normal.
As of Aug. 22, El Paso County’s 7-day incidence rate was up 20 percent week over week; the 7-day average positivity rate was up 13 percent week over week.
We’re drowning in Delta here, and everyone’s acting like it’s 2019.
It’s time to drop all the absurd “but-mah-freedom” bickering about masking on social media, and stop the idiots who are attacking retailers and baristas and business owners over mask requirements in individual establishments.
And it’s past time to put a lid on the “we respect all stances” cop-out so many districts are pulling when it comes to masking in schools.
Those refusing to mask up are wilfully hurting the most defenseless among us: kids younger than 12, who aren’t eligible for vaccines yet.
Children’s Hospital Colorado is urging that “everyone 2 years and older wear a mask indoors to protect from COVID,” including in classrooms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the same, as do countless other researchers.
“What the science actually shows is that for children ages 2 and above, masks are not only protective but needed,” Dr. Lynn Goldman, dean of George Washington University’s Milken Institute of Public Health, told Politifact. Goldman, who’s also a pediatrician, added that masks are “absolutely effective” in cutting COVID transmission in schools.
Cheyenne Mountain School District 12 has seen sense, enacting a mask mandate for all K-12 students and staff Aug. 18. The city of Manitou Springs stepped up, launching a mask mandate in indoor public places (including schools) for everyone over the age of 5, from Aug. 23.
But let’s not get too hopeful. Lewis-Palmer School District 38 is sitting on its hands, waffling, “While mask usage is encouraged, they are not required for any individual…” And School District 49 leadership has lost its collective mind, announcing it’ll refuse to “facilitate voluntary reporting and contact tracing.” Translation: They won’t tell you if anyone’s spreading COVID in the classrooms. They won’t even ask.
Outside school walls, El Paso County Public Health “strongly recommends wearing a mask in public indoor settings — regardless of vaccination status,” citing CDC advice. But Public Health doesn’t have mandate powers; they can’t force anyone’s hand. The city won’t do it and El Paso County Commissioners, on this issue, have been useless at every stage of the COVID crisis, most recently trumpeting their wrongheaded opposition to any statewide mask mandate and promising never to impose one of their own.
Anti-maskers are like toddlers: “urging” and “encouraging” are a waste of breath. We need a mandate, and we need it to come from Gov. Jared Polis.
In May, Polis announced Colorado would switch “from mask-wearing requirements to mask-wearing suggestions and guidance.” On Aug. 12, with the Delta surge well underway, Polis insisted he had no plans to mandate masks for students, despite recognizing the risk of infection and the potential chaos of outbreaks. “There might be periods of time where for 10 days or a week, your class might have to go online, if there is an outbreak in the class,” he said. Polis added that a threat to hospital capacity or the ability of schools to remain open could change his mind on a mandate — but it’s astonishing that he needs to be cornered into taking action.
A whole lot of “suggestions,” a distinct lack of spine.
By failing to mandate masks, cities, counties and school districts are proving they care more about political expediency than our safety. The order must come from the top, because if we don’t change course, lockdowns and empty schools and overflowing hospitals won’t be just a memory anymore.
The Delta variant is out of control. The selfishness of people who won’t just mask up until we can get kids vaccinated and transmission rates down — that’s out of control too.
Polis, take the wheel.