By next week, vaccines could be available locally for children ages 5 to 11 and the long pandemic nightmare we’ve been living might finally come to an end. I can’t wait to get my 6-year-old vaccinated. He’s looking forward to it too.
He’s been wearing a mask for nearly two years. Even when friends, neighbors, and strangers have refused to do so, I’ve instructed him to continue wearing his mask. Do you know how difficult it is to make sure a 6-year-old boy wears a mask? Honestly, it was easier in the earliest days of the pandemic, with corona classic, when there were no vaccines. Most everyone around him wore masks so he did too, unequivocally, without back talk or question.
Then his father got vaccinated. His mother got vaccinated. His baby sister was born with magical antibodies passed down to her thanks to my own vaccination, yet here he was the only one who still had to wear a mask to ensure he wouldn’t be exposed to a deadly disease. In the midst of all this, mandated mask wearing in Florida became the hottest political topic since hanging chads.
During his first grade orientation, parents openly asked the masked teacher how they could fill out the form to exempt their child from wearing a mask. I, wearing a mask to model good behavior for my son, looked on in subtle horror about what he might be exposed to this school year. When cases spiked in schools and Duval County Schools, Superintendent Diana Green changed the mask exemption from parental to medical, and I was relieved.
You know what else happened? I stopped getting daily calls from the school about students or staff being infected with COVID. One of those notification calls was about my child’s classroom. My son said he sat right next to the infected student. I never got a contact tracing call. Thankfully my son wasn’t infected and hasn’t been sick.
Those who protest mask and vaccine mandates truly confound me. To equate these reckless choices to civil liberty angers me beyond what I can coherently express in this column. As Americans we like to throw around the founders’ most famous words, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I’d just like to point out that the first unalienable right we are all endowed with by our creator is life. In the throes of a deadly, global pandemic, life should have been all we were concerned with, not as Republicans or Democrats, not as Americans, but as people.
Life and life alone is, was, and will be all that matters. Should teachers, students, and school personnel be mandated to be vaccinated? Yes. Should there have been a mask mandate until everyone was vaccinated, without an opt out? Yes. Should the COVID vaccine be among the scheduled vaccinations children receive and notify their schools about when enrolling? Yes. In a public school, our public health system should mandate the protection of the public.
I’m on the side of life. If my child has to wear a mask to preserve his life, he will wear a mask. If my child must be vaccinated to preserve his life, he will be vaccinated. Life is the goal.