As a Registered Nurse (RN) and science educator, it is extremely frustrating to learn that there are still parents voicing opposition to mask policies at our local schools (Hastings Tribune, Sept. 15).
I personally communicated my concerns to both school boards at Adams Central Public Schools board and Hastings Public Schools in July prior to their upcoming graduation ceremonies.
At that time, no decision regarding masks in buildings had been made for either district.
There were parents on both sides of the issue but, in the end, reasonable voices voted to implement mask policies.
The fact that there is an ongoing debate surrounding this basic public health intervention is astounding, but not at all surprising.
Politics have influenced the science, instead of letting science guide federal, state and local policies. This pandemic has been treated as a political issue from the beginning, instead of the public health emergency that it actually is.
Online misinformation continues to exacerbate the problem, as well.
Consequently, there are tens of millions of people who believe the virus has been “over-exaggerated” or that it’s a “hoax;” despite the fact that more than 200,000 American lives have been lost and more than 40 million people are unemployed.
There are people in our own community who think numbers are being “inflated” and that COVID-19 is “no different” than the seasonal flu.
Unfortunately, misinformation surrounding the pandemic has spread just as quickly as the disease itself.
One of the parents at the Adams Central’s last school board meeting was even quoted, “I think a lot of it is fear-driven” (in reference to the current mask mandate).
Now we could view this statement as ignorance, or, we can use it as an opportunity for science to help lead the conversation.
Healthcare providers and public health officials in Tribland overwhelmingly support the use of masks in the community and our schools.
If we trust them with our own health and the health of our family, friends and neighbors, then why aren’t we listening to them on masks?
Answer: misinformation and politics.
As of Thursday, the South Heartland District Health Department reported that our district is back to an “elevated level” (Hastings Tribune, Sept. 24).
Not only is our health district seeing more cases, the positivity rate of performed tests has increased, as well. Those are the facts.
Michelle Bever, director of SHDHD, has one of the most difficult jobs in our community right now and she and her staff should be thanked for the work they continue to do.
We have local scientists collecting local data; data that suggests we have people who continue to disregard evidence-based guidelines and recommendations.
Public health and the health of our democracy are both dependent on having informed citizens — informed citizens who believe in facts and a moral obligation to care for each other.