Shawn Nowlin email@example.com
Days after being inaugurated, Governor Glenn Youngkin signed an executive order banning mask mandates. Six months ago, Democrat Ralph Northam, Youngkin’s predecessor, issued a public health emergency order mandating masks in schools.
Seven school boards – Alexandria City, Arlington County, Richmond City, Fairfax County, Falls Church City, Hampton City and Prince William County – recently filed a lawsuit with the Circuit Court for the County of Arlington to challenge the constitutionality of Youngkin’s executive order.
Explained the groups in a joint statement, “Without this action, school boards are placed in a legally untenable position – faced with an executive order that is in conflict with the constitution and state law. This not politically motivated. School divisions would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with the governor to ensure the safety and welfare of all students. This lawsuit is not brought out of choice, but out of necessity.”
Throughout his campaign, Youngkin heavily focused on the rights of schoolchildren’s parents, said Roanoke County native Steve Marshall, who added, I don’t understand why people thought he would get into office and govern to the contrary.
Masks have altered the trajectory of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages all staff, students and school visitors to wear one while indoors, regardless of vaccine status. Individuals vaccinated from COVID-19 are four times less likely to be hospitalized than those who are not, according to the CDC.
Stores in Salem like Walmart and Sheetz offer free surgical masks.
Employees at businesses that directly serve the community, such as retail stores and restaurants, are required to wear masks. As the omicron variant began to spread, more cities and counties started to adopt indoor mandates.
Across the commonwealth, there are approximately 1.5 million schoolchildren, including nearly 4,000 within the six Salem City Public Schools. Last Friday, Superintendent Curtis Hicks sent out a letter to students, families and staff. In part, it read, “The Salem City School Division respects the new governor as well as the rights of parents, and we look forward to providing families with the opportunity to transition to a mask-optional or a mask opt-out approach as soon as conditions allow us to do so. However, the Salem Community is currently experiencing the highest transmission levels since the pandemic began in March of 2020.”
Hicks added, “While transmission levels are a concern, the greater concern for our schools is the risk to in-person instruction from contact tracing and quarantining. Currently, because of universal masking in schools, students are considered a close contact and are required to quarantine if they are within three feet of someone who has tested positive for at least 15 minutes in 24 hours. We believe that transitioning to a mask-optional or mask opt-out policy while our schools and the community are experiencing extremely high case counts jeopardizes in-person instruction for all students.”
Amy Wallace has two children that attend East Salem Elementary School. As someone who has contracted COVID-19, Wallace feels that she is more than qualified to discuss the topic because he knows what she speaks. “I appreciate Governor Youngkin prioritizing testing guidelines to mitigate supply-chain shortages. That is awesome. This should not be a partisan issue though. I understand that not everyone likes them, but facts are facts. The evidence is so overwhelming at this point. I’ve had COVID and trust me, it is not fun. I’m glad our Salem officials have taken this stance.”
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