With the school year starting, we at the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy [OICA] wish for everyone to have a safe return to the classroom. Unfortunately, our state must find a difficult balance as we work to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
While we must ensure children can learn in the best possible environment for most, which is inside the classroom, we must also balance the safety of students and their families as the delta variant of COVID-19 surges among the unvaccinated population, while finding a way to comply with a recent state law which makes that extremely difficult.
Children under the age of 16, while not highly susceptible to the worst symptoms, are still greatly at risk for contracting this virus and spreading it through their older unvaccinated family members as they cannot get their shots yet. These important caregivers for our children are the ones who will see the worst of this illness should children contract it at school.
We encourage you to educate your own children to not “follow the pack” of those deniers and do what they can to protect themselves and family members at home.
Over the past year, we have endured lockdown in our homes, shutdowns of countless businesses and schools, hundreds of thousands of deaths, and now a new fear from a more contagious variant. You would think trying to withstand all that and returning to normalcy would make the importance and value of masking and vaccines self-evident, but that is not the case with far too many.
It is tragic to hear so many deathbed conversions of those who railed against such precautions as they lay near death in intensive care from a preventable virus. As many of these patients now understand, we must exercise our “personal responsibility” to do what our leaders will not mandate.
This means, it is up to you to wear your mask and get your vaccine.
Do not expect anyone in government to enact a mandate; they have taken the position of “see to it yourselves.” Do not even expect those around you to take precautions. It is up to you to protect yourself and your children.
In Oklahoma, more than 6,000 new cases and 26 coronavirus-related deaths were reported on Monday [Aug. 9]. Overall, we have now topped half-a-million COVID-19 cases, meaning that more than one-out-of-every eight Oklahomans has contracted the disease. And this is before children return to the classroom.
Despite the devastating impact on families across Oklahoma, the misinformation spread against vaccination is even more contagious. OICA partners with nearly a dozen other organizations to support MASKOK.ORG for “Mask Up Oklahoma.” Our organizations support masks and vaccinations as preventatives to COVID and a pathway back to “normal,” especially for school-age children.
Some emails sent to the website were wildly outlandish, incredibly inaccurate, and – in some cases – venomously hateful. The sentiment behind these messages is perpetuating the pandemic, putting us all at risk of another surge beyond what we already endured.
A few weeks ago, we thought we could see light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. With the variant strains of COVID-19 now surging in the nation, we must once again take every precaution to stop the spread of this malevolent virus. Vaccination and masking are our best-shot ways to protect our children, our families, and school personnel. The result will be keeping schools and businesses open and protecting our economy.