Virginia is for lovers . . .

Most of Southwest and Central Virginia will be mask mandate free by Valentine’s Day.  The notable exceptions are Roanoke City (but not the surrounding county, where I am from) and Montgomery County, where Virginia Tech is.  These are also the only places in the area run by Republicans.  Basically, in order to ditch the masks, you need to have a Republican governor AND Republican local leadership.

There are so many things I agree with Democrats on.  However, for me, Covid restrictions trump all of them, even abortion restrictions, which are what brought me over to the Democrats in the first place.  I support freedom from Covid restrictions for the same reason I support freedom from abortion restrictions.

I was reflecting today on the fact that the school ended ALL extracurricular activities and has yet to bring any of them back, except virtually.  There have been zero activities for the kids organized by the school of any kind in two years.  Two. Years.  No sports, no music, no games, no outings or field trips.  It is a very unusual weekday when I don’t get some kind of communique from the school.  Today’s e-mail asked that “families please make every effort to limit social gatherings.”  Good thing I’m not very social anyway, I guess.

Bri starts basketball this week, and naturally we got a Covid e-mail.  An excerpt:

A prescreening checklist and waiver are mandatory for all participants.

If you have any COVID-19 symptoms or have contact with a person who has or is suspected to have COVID-19 you will not be allowed to participate.

If you are high risk, you may want to consider delaying participation at this time.

All participants and parent/guardians will be required to wear a mask at check-in and during the program. Participants will also need to have their temperature taken before joining the program each week.

At this time, we are not allowed to have spectators in the gym during the program. Because of COVID-19 protocols and the spike in Omicron cases, we ask that all parents watch from outside of the facility.

We have hand sanitizing stations and disinfecting wipes on-site. Staff have been trained and will be sanitizing the equipment regularly and enforcing distancing as much as possible.

Participants should come dressed ready to play and bring their own water as the water fountain has been turned off in the gym. Restrooms are open and will be available for use.

I think I hate the endless Covid e-mails almost as much as the restrictions.  One of the things I love about the rhythmic gymnastics is that the coach has never once mentioned Covid to me.  Maybe one time.  This is probably partially because her preferred language is not English and so a lengthy e-mail like the above would not be happening.  But still.  It’s a breath of fresh air.

Our pediatrician also contacted us to let us know they are out of tests, and that if your child has cold symptoms, they should quarantine for 5 days and wear a mask at all times for 10.  OK, whatever.  Maybe just buy some tests on Amazon, but they’re basically just quoting the CDC.  But I just love how they told us we should make our kid who hasn’t even tested positive for Covid wear a mask AROUND THE HOUSE for ten days straight.  I mean, who are they kidding?

Once those 5 days are up AND your child is fever free for 24 hours, you should limit your child’s exposure to others and make sure they wear a well-fitting mask. After those 5 additional days of diligent mask wearing (yes even at home),

Sorry, I am not going to make my child wear a mask for every waking hour if they have not even tested positive for Covid!

17 thoughts on “Virginia is for lovers . . .

  1. becca

    I constantly wonder if the anti-mask parents in Virginia have kids with peanut allergies and are ok with bringing peanut butter sandwiches back to school. It always seems to me that parental demands for freedom for their kids doesn’t really consider other kids (like its a big ADA issue right now about immunocompromised kids or kids with vaccine allergies access to public education that takes no covid restrictions). I mean, let’s be clear, the same Virginia republicans who are removing mask mandates ran on a campaign that highlight a parents anger at how upset her 18 year old was when his AP English class had to read Beloved and how it made him feel bad.

    I just think masks in school is not a bridge to die on in terms of parental rights – especially when they aren’t required for sports or outdoor recess or while eating (though that’s done in pods); and effective N95’s are encouraged and provided by the schools. Northern Virginia (with local democrat leadership) is not out of control like your kids schools, they are mostly following CDC guidelines and keeping up with all the ups and downs of the changes, letting exposed kids return to school with testing, only quarantine/out of school if you actually get covid, etc.

  2. Becca

    (I guess “parents controlling school policies” seems like a great idea until you consider what it actually means. I mean check out the Texas public school curriculum controversies if you want a sense about how bad it can get. Sometimes there are reasons for professionals controlling public school policies and not leaving it up to a majority vote of parents. There’s always private schools if you want something different – that said the private schools around here are WAY more restricted than the public schools. Though private schools reopened while public schools stayed closed, its a weird dichotomy. But it gives you a window into what rich, professional, well educated parents want for their kids compared to what you get by default in the public school system.)

  3. admin Post author

    This is the thing Becca. YOU may not think policies like requiring masks for kids 8 hours a day are a problem, but I do, and I’m going to vote accordingly. In particular, I think masks on young kids are a very serious problem that inhibits them in a myriad of ways. I’m not alone in believing this; most of Europe prohibits masks on kids under 12 or so.

    And I will vote accordingly. I’m at the point of starting to donate money to Republicans. (Haven’t done it yet, but I’m getting there.) If Democrats don’t want Beloved banned and abortion banned and all the other Republican evils brought to their backyard, they might want to think about whether all the Covid restrictions on kids are such a good idea. (In WA, mask mandates start at age 2 or 3 at the oldest in daycares and preschools, btw.)

    Virginia is particularly ironic. No statewide mask mandate, so adults can go without masks, including adults who are actually at risk from Covid, like unvaccinated, unboosted old people. While kids who have far, far less risk from Covid than from the flu, must wear masks all day long – until the hero Youngkin put an end to it. If Covid were actually dangerous to kids, this would be a different discussion. Now that the vaccine is available, it’s become beyond absurd to require masks.

    I despise peanut butter. But even if I loved it, I see foregoing it a minor inconvenience. Kids wearing masks all day (along with all the other ridiculousness) is not a minor inconvenience. I would much rather give up ice cream or chocolate (or make my kids give them up) than make them wear masks all day.

  4. admin Post author

    I am just done with Democrats screwing up my kids’ lives in the name of Covid safety. There is no quantitative basis for it. I moved past annoyance a very long time ago. School reading lists just seem inconsequential compared to the circus I’m witnessing every day, and masks are the most visible symbol.

  5. becca

    I think allowing your frustrations about the extreme behaviors of a west coast private school and related extracurricular activities to translate to anger at very minimal restrictions in Virginia public schools (in democrat-run localities) is a false dichotomy. These are two entirely different things. Kids in Virginia public schools with a mask mandate do *not* wear masks all day, they are not required when outside, over lunch (which is podded), or while doing outdoor sports. The school day is 6.5 hrs long (8 am-2:30 pm for elementary school), and given all the exceptions, students likely wear masks for about 4-5 hrs. They do not have to stay home after a covid exposure in the classroom, they just have to take a test. As far as I know all athletics and other extracurricular activities have fully resumed.

    The only state- and local-driven mask requirement is for *public schools.* Virginia’s democratic governor lifted mask requirements in all private places many months ago – there are *no* requirements on private schools. Vote for either party, it does not matter, if you send your kid to a private school, the school itself not the state or local government decides what their mask requirements are. Its the same for day cares, there is no state mandate requiring masking in day cares, most day cares are private and most choose to have mask policies (and some rather extreme quarantine policies IMHO), but if you don’t want your kid on the mask, you can walk with your money and feet I suppose nothing the *state* or *local government* (dem. or republican) requires your kid to be masked up outside of a public school. The rule is surprisingly consistent with the adult rule – if you work for the city or state (and definitely for the fedgov), you likely have to wear a mask in your workplace (at least in Alexandria all public city facilities have a mask requirement); when you enter a private place of business, its up to that business to decide the state doesn’t force you one way or the other.

    The different between private and public is compulsion and I think an important distinction to make. Parents are *compelled* to send their kids to school, and if they can’t afford anything else, that means public school. That’s true even if your kid is getting cancer treatment, is allergic to vaccines, is allergic to peanuts, lives at home with a sick elderly person, etc. So public school policy must make a decision that protects the whole population of the school. I get you disagree with CDC’s mask guidance (there’s a lot to disagree with especially when it comes to cloth masks, at least from my layman’s perspective). But following CDC public health guidance (which is mirrored by the Virginia Department of Health) seems to be legitimate choice for a local government/school to make when it when it comes to meeting their obligation to keep all students – who are compelled to be present in the school – safe. There are real liability issues I would think for a public school that chooses to ignore public health guidance and then one of the students, who is compelled by law to attend, gets severely ill. A private school can say “we allow peanuts here, so pick another school if you don’t want your kid around peanuts.” A public school can’t do that, it has to accept the child and keep the child healthy all day while the child is in the school’s care. Parents can walk with their feet and pocket books from private schools and day cares if they want something different from public schools. Not all students can walk away from public schools. So yes, whereas you can go to a private school and make sure your child is never exposed to the idea of evolution (for example), parents don’t get that freedom with public education because the school makes choices for all children, not just your child.

    I know this is a hyperbolic comparison but I bet there’s some parents who would love their children to be able to take guns to school too in the name of freedom and all that (in fact this was a controversy in Texas when some teens would leave hunting rifles in their car in school parking lots near the opening days of hunting season) and they could probably find a lot of commentary that this is entirely safe and doesn’t lead to school shootings. But the parents don’t get to pick what’s safe for the entire school, the school has to do that for the entire population of the school. And yes, schools choose to do things I consider dumb in the name of safety – the elementary school near my house prohibited kids from riding bikes to school unless accompanied by their parents which I thought was extraordinarily dumb.

    (I think the far more dangerous choice was schools shutting down the whole year. That outrages me even thinking about it.)

    (For what its worth, I am really sorry the masks have been so difficult on your kids. I think different kids tolerate masks differently. But if you really think this is an existential crisis for your kids health and well being, you really might consider less restrictive schools. I heard here in Virginia, the Catholic schools have recently gone mask-optional.)

  6. Jennifer

    All schools here, public or private, must have their students wear masks. Are you sure that wasn’t the case in Virginia? If there was a mask free private option, we’d consider it.

    It’s possible the extreme case of our school is causing me to be irrational about this. I definitely concede the argument of following cdc guidelines. If our school did that, instead of going way above and beyond, I think I’d be less frustrated. But cdc guidelines can be problematic as well, especially as regards travel. Most people violate multiple cdc guidelines regularly, not related to covid, but that’s another post.

    Hypothetical examples just don’t speak to me that much when this specific real thing is part of our daily lives.

    I feel like we are supposed to be so grateful that schools reopened our that basketball happened at all that we’re supposed to put up with anything.

  7. Becca

    I don’t think the grateful thing is the way we should treat it. But I think schools being closed is a real threat. Kids having to wear cloth over their face seems like a relatively minor annoyance in the grand scheme of things.

    It does look like the previous order applied to private schools, but I remember a colleague telling me his catholic school dropped the requirement months ago. There was a ton of debate here last summer about weather masks needed to be required for fully vaccinated teenagers, and even in an 80% community the high school had been considering foregoing masking. But the thing that tilted the scales was that they weren’t going to be able to get student vaccination status.

    In any event the crazies have really come out – some Virginia mom was apparently arrested for saying if her kid had to wear a mask in school she’d be there with guns.

  8. admin Post author

    But what was the point of the debate as long as the Democratic governor’s order was in place? Unless i’m misunderstanding, masks were required statewide until Youngkin took over, right?

    There is no debate here whatsoever over indoor masking because due to the state mandate, it’s really pretty irrelevant what people think at any individual school.

  9. Becca

    The K-12 mask mandate was only begun at the start of the 2021 school year (quick google says Aug 2021). Before that what to do was a matter of open debate given vaccines had been given to teachers and >12 and generally covid rates were very low. Remember schools were closed the whole previous year AND there had been a statewide mandate that lifted in early summer… so that just left open the question about how to handle schools. I think lots of folks thought it would end up being left to local districts – our board definitely debated what to do as if they’d have a choice.

  10. becca

    I’d have to go back and re-read the news to reconstruct the series of events. There had been a statewide mask order until early summer which included schools – but mostly schools were closed the whole school year so, really, no one paid attention to the masking. Then, in early summer, Northam rescinded all the statewide mask orders and at least here the belief was that he was leaving it to local school district control. There was significant debate in Alexandria about high school masking as teachers were vaxxed, over 12 were vaxxed, and covid rates were in very steep decline. Then (I googled the date, it was Aug 12, 2021), right before the school year started, I guess the health authorities were growing increasingly outraged some school districts were going to do no masks at all and Northam issued the universal K-12 mask order.

  11. Jennifer

    Interesting. Remember that schools all over Virginia were open last year, some hybrid, some fully open. Like in Roanoke County for example. Northern Virginia was an outlier in being closed all year.

    The same is true in Washington. While Seattle area schools were closed all year, schools in Eastern Washington were open. And do there has been a mask mandate in Washington statewide since fall ’20. Not sure if that’s true in Virginia though. I remember a friend being upset when they imposed the mandate in Roanoke County last year which implies for a while at least there was no statewide mandate.

    I’m guessing the schools that were open last year are the same ones without mask mandates in Virginia now.

  12. becca

    Yeah, the statewide mandate was like the middle part of the pandemic. I would guess it was in place for the bulk of the 2020-2021 school year, it ended in very late spring or very early summer 2021– I think at first only for people who have been vaccinated and then completely because its impossible to tell who has been vaccinated. It was only for indoor public places, we never had an outdoor mandate (there might have been an outdoor mandate for crowded outdoor events, I don’t know we didn’t go to any of those. DC had an outdoor mandate for all locations for a while which I thought was silly.) They had some sort of standard for ending the mask mandate too, like below a certain positivity rate, and Virginia hit that before DC or Maryland did so they had masks while we didn’t. I know the counties in Maryland adjoining DC had a “no masks as long as our positivity rate is below 5%, so they would be like “masks this week!” “no masks this week!” it was very confusing). Northern Virginia had separate rules as part of a DC tri-state agreement to try to align the rules, so our mandate was in place a bit longer than the rest of the state (our positivity rates were also a bit higher, but our vaccine uptake was also higher)? I can’t remember. But its been gone for a long time now even for northern Virginia.

    You’re right schools were open in other parts of Virginia last year, they would have had to wear masks in school, but I have no idea if that was a separate rule for schools or just part of the then-existing statewide mandate for masks in all public places (the state mandate required it for everyone over age 2). But last school year was a different time, teachers were not vaccinated, for instance. But there was a definite period of time last summer where the expectation was that schools would set their own rules for the 2021-2022 school year and not the state.

    I did some more googling it looks like the change was prompted because CDC issued guidance at the end of July saying there should be masking in school, and the Virginia legislature had passed a law saying that public schools should follow CDC guidance (it was combined with the same bipartisan legislation that required all schools to reopen). Because I was bored and did more googling today, it says that Youngkin’s order to lift the mandate might be challenged as a violation of Virginia law since that law is still on the books.

    Frankly I think the moderate voters of northern Virginia who swung the race to Youngkin were mostly energized by the school closures not the masking – I think there’s a lot of division on that subjects, parents who want in person learning but also want kids masked along with other covid precautions in schools. I know lots of parents that are ambivalent about masks, not enough to charge the statehouse like they were over school closures. It was absurd here in northern Virginia how long schools were kept closed and provoked a good deal of outrage. If it was just a mask mandate in school wedge issue, I think he would have had a harder time swinging that support from the moderate voters.

  13. admin Post author

    What’s fascinating to me is how gung ho many parents both in Seattle and NoVa are about masks. Like, if you’ve been paying attention you know that Covid, even Delta, is less dangerous for kids than the flu. Not just healthy kids – ALL kids. When Ireland temporarily imposed a mask mandate on older children, most parents were opposed (like 2/3) but most non-parents supported it. This makes total sense. Kids spread Covid, and making them wear masks protects the populace at large but is annoying / harmful for kids (depending on your perspective). So kids are taking one for the team. Hence parents should oppose in general, and non-parents should support, from a personal interest perspective.

    But in progressive parts of the US, it’s the opposite. Parents are OBSESSED with masks. Youngkins order doesn’t make mask mandates optional; he forbids them. It’s definitely going to court. But as far as I can tell, a very vocal group of NoVa parents are basically like, “Give me masks or give me death!”

    We had students in Seattle stage a “strike” last week. Their demands? N95s for all staff AND students and twice weekly Covid testing OR remote school.

    I don’t get it. But my guess would be that if the CDC lifts the mask recommendation, Virginia will follow, even NoVa. Seattle, however, likely will continue to mandate masks. I’m not sure how important this is, because I see no indication that things will get “better” and the CDC will stop recommending masks. It feels pretty permanent to me right now.

  14. becca

    First of all, I will say Americans generally are really bad at understanding risk numbers and making comparisons. Most of my friends with elementary school age kids and old (even before the vaccines), and are mostly living life with some precautions, including here in NOVA. Its the people with the under 5’s I know are still living in a bubble and are constantly neurotic – despite the risk being by far the lowest. I think some of the neurotic is simply related to trying to avoid a quarantine that keeps them out of daycare (its own particular brand of hell), but also about catching covid. Every time I’ve had my conversation with my brother and SIL about the remarkably low risk, it usually ends with “well someone in my facebook parents group just had her kid in the hospital for a week with covid,” and that basically ends any discussion of risk. It is by far the most over-protective parent group when it comes to covid, while, ironically being the least at risk.

    Returning to the NOVA instance of masks at school…I think the NOVA progressive parent insistence on masks in school has a lot to do with reaction to the anti-mask sentiment, which seems to be (here) mostly aligned with “covid is fake” “vaccines put tracking beacons under your skin” “racism doesn’t exist” sentiment, which doesn’t leave much room for middle ground. To be fair, whenever I see someone not wearing a mask in a store that has “please wear a mask as a courtesy” sign, I always assume that person is also not vaccinated, because the two behaviors seem to be tied together — as if wearing a mask is a signaler for “I got my vaccine, and if I do get sick I’ll stay home and won’t come out and spread covid.” But frankly the attitude around here is that masks are no big deal as long as you don’t have to wear them while playing sports or being outside, and I think that there’s general bafflement to why the level of “you’re trampling on my freedom” opposition and where its coming from.

    I do think in general, NOVA will follow the CDC, if CDC lifts, NOVA will follow. I don’t think NOVA will adopt a stricter approach than what the CDC recommendations. City of Alexandria is arguably the most liberal community in NOVA, and the dialog here has always been “we should do what CDC recommends” and our city regulations have nearly always tracked the CDC. Montgomery County (on the Maryland side) on the other hand has gone absurdly above and beyond the CDC consistently, so we see what it looks like, even implementing absurd interstate travel quarantines despite sharing a border with 2 other states. I think eventually CDC will declare covid endemic instead of a pandemic and lift recommendations for universal precautions, I don’t think this is going to go on forever.

    (Relatedly, I have over time frequently done flu statistic comparisons, its hard to do, it looked like early in the pandemic it was true that an average flu year was more dangerous to children. But in 2021 and 2022, it appears that covid in those years edges out even a bad flu year in terms of danger for all age groups of children if you look at just deaths. The hospitalization numbers are super hard to meaningfully compare. But either way they are similar magnitude of risk.)

  15. becca

    (DC recently created a vaccine requirement for restaurants, and I think a lot of liberal NOVA is like WTF, we don’t want that, but maybe NOVA restaurants will get more business now..)

  16. admin Post author

    At this point, I think a mandate requiring TWO shots is indefensible on the grounds of preventing spread, since most up-to-date research suggests 2 shots have negligible effect on symptomatic illness.

    But three shots supposedly are 55 to 80% effective – right? So I can get behind 3 shot mandates for public spaces. But as far as I know, all the mandates are for two shots.

  17. Karen

    Personally now that both my kids are vaccinated I’m kind of over enforcing masks on them. The chance of severe disease is too low to care much other than the crazy way this virus is treated compared to other childhood viruses. We mostly wear masks out of curtesy and in observance of rules.

    I wear a mask because I’m tire of being sick and because of the significant disruption that a COVID diagnosis would mean. Leonore has brought home *so many head and upper airway viruses* that the whole mask thing at her age is laughable. But it is possibly better than nothing and she is in a mixed age group. She’s been PCR tested 6 times since Aug so she can return to school. But when she had a bad case of RSV – she could go back immediately…. Seriously? Yep. It is absurd.

    Who knows the next variant may make me change my mind.

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