Maddie, my three-year-old daughter, is home this week because one of her classmates tested COVID positive. You read that right. It’s July 2021, but our toddler, who is at virtually no risk of transmitting or getting sick from COVID, is forced by the ruling class to be out of school, as are her 23 tiny classmates.
So while I try to do work as I listen to Maddie talk to her imaginary friends, I’d like to pose a question to those making and enforcing policy in Sacramento and Los Angeles.
When is it enough?
The folks now telling our beloved Montessori school to shut down the offending class do not seem to be the brightest among us — what with their unwillingness to grasp and apply basic science — so I’ll define the ‘it’. It means the random, ever-changing rules about masking and social distancing, locking down and staying home. It specifically means the bizarre position, formulated in an email to our school by a Los Angeles County mid-level bureaucrat, that ‘anyone who tests positive or has a close contact to someone who tested positive must quarantine for 10 days’ — as if an unvaccinated 85-year-old runs a risk anywhere close to our chatty toddler.
In reality, the willful choice by policymakers and many in the media to ignore the wildly varying risk levels between age groups is doing damage all over the place, especially to children.
Does willful sound harsh? The numbers illustrating the minuscule risk for young children, as well as their vaccinated caretakers, are being under-reported and ignored while being widely available. Out of 75 million Americans under 18 years of age, so far 335 have died of COVID. I’m no statistician, but I know that’s a barely perceptible percentage, with lots of zeros to the right of the decimal point. So if the Centers for Disease Control has its way we mask children and we keep disrupting schools for a risk lower than the chance of being hit by lightning. Got it. We can safely assume that the answer to my question about the duration of this nonsense is ‘never’.
Data and science have apparently stopped mattering for the party of science, as the Democrats who rule California like to call themselves. Studies are crystal clear: masks on kids are pointless; kids don’t get ill nearly as often when infected; they do not transmit the disease in anywhere near the same numbers as adults; and death from COVID among children is exceedingly rare. Indeed, our three young children will not get vaccinated. ‘Oh, why not?’ is not a great argument when no data exist on the impact of vaccinations on children, while the lack of any need to inject them seems pretty powerful.
If these facts don’t matter, it must be about control, about making sure we keep following the mostly damaging rules cooked up more than a year ago, even as the world they applied to has completely changed.
But cases are rising. Right, cases — how about hospitalizations and deaths? Remember, those were the catch phrases to justify the lockdowns, the masks and the needless school closings, borderline criminal acts inspired by the public teacher’s unions. We were going to keep medical facilities from being overwhelmed — a good argument indeed, but no longer valid as no hospital in the United States is even close to being overwhelmed. We had to do it until we were all vaccinated, it was a matter of life and death — great point, but it’s way behind us since any adult who wishes to be vaccinated can.
Still, with the predictability of a clock we hear it again this week. Cases are rising in Los Angeles County. The media report it with that familiar, breathless kind of excitement. The crisis is back! But who is getting COVID? Unvaccinated young people, who are not at a significant risk of dying from it. The daily average number of deaths in LA Country (population 10 million) has recently been six. That is not a typo, there are no zeros missing. The number of COVID deaths is six. But! We must lock down again and mask up again and stay home again.
The logical approach is what it has always been: trust educators, school boards and parents to make sane decisions. There, I wrote a basic policy guidance that makes moral and practical sense. It wasn’t hard. Why on earth would the government in Los Angeles, California or, God forbid, Washington know better how to handle the predicament at my daughter’s little Montessori? Of course that was rhetorical, since public policy has now been divorced from reality.
Our school’s leadership acted with courage and common sense when they opened back up on May 15, 2020, staying open for all kids in pre-K through second grade throughout the rest of that miserable year and up to today. Without issues, without masks on children — because masking isn’t necessary or effective. No no no, says the American Association of Pediatrics, which now recommends masking any child over two years of age. Special prize for any parent who can keep a mask properly fitted on a toddler’s face for six hours a day, by the way. Still, you must. Why? Dr Fauci says it’s ‘the reasonable thing to do’. Right, in the way that bringing a bazooka to a game of darts is reasonable. ‘Because we ask you to,’ an AAP spokesman said this week. Annoyed by parental resistance he added: ‘It’s not like we’re asking to go to the trenches with a shooting war.’
But that metaphor is completely off base. COVID was never a war, or even a health crisis for children. It certainly is not now. Isn’t it odd, though, how those pulling the levers, when parents and educators should be in charge, love the metaphors of violence? War, crisis, battle, fight — all terms intended to justify any measure to grab control and limit personal liberties. We are here to protect you is the chilling update of Reagan’s ‘nine most terrifying words in the English language’: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.
Clearly there are excellent reasons to distrust our betters in government, while we do trust our school’s administration. Several parents spoke this week with the teachers and director — all of them vaccinated — about a simple plan. Inform every parent, ask them to test their toddler, no matter how unnecessary that is, and have each parent sign a waiver. Voilà: those who want the children in class can go ahead, while those concerned can keep the kids at home. No harm done, problem solved.
Armed with these common-sense suggestions the Director begged the state to intervene and allow them to welcome healthy, tested, eager children, including my butterfly-chasing daughter. Of course the bureaucrats on the other end of the line dismissed it all: fall in line or risk losing your license. An unhelpful LA County worker directed the Director to a couple of websites stating the California guidance, such as it is. The person signed off with ‘hang in there’. Again it seemed to belong in the summer of 2020, when panicked people started signing emails with those crisis-y four words: ‘stay healthy and safe’. Hang in there: it’s something you say to someone faced with a crisis.
Safetyism has obviously infected the highest levels of state and county governments. Yet, for now, we are autonomous people living in a free-ish country where citizens make their own decisions. Every time I strap my children into their car seats I take a calculated risk. Riding scooters down our block, letting Maddie jump into the pool without a floaty, watching her climb massive playground structures on the fly? Risk taken, risk accepted. Going to school when one of 24 children tested positive a few days ago? It’s just ignorant to think that risk is greater — or that anyone but her parents should make that call.
And of course children need school. It boggles the mind that I, a fairly new parent of three, need to state the utterly obvious. But teachers unions, politicians and a disconcerting number of our neighbors seem to have forgotten. Kids need their friends and classmates. They need socialization. They need to play and learn in groups.
The last thing we need is local governments rushing in to ‘protect’ us every time the media report a spike in cases with misplaced alarm, free of context. Here’s a thought. Unless we call for help, leave us alone as we facilitate a wholesome world for our kids to thrive, a world in which willing adults are vaccinated, where unwilling ones can isolate themselves. That world includes their splendid little school, a welcoming place to learn and play with their friends, unmasked and unafraid.