Guest Column: “It’s My Right” (to not mask) is Just Wrong

Article written by JC Defrense

Anti-mask protest. Man with a sign which reads "I will never wear the mask!!"
Image by GoToVan is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Gov. Greg Abbott is doing his best to sacrifice the life of your child or grandchild. By issuing an order banning local governments from passing mask mandates Abbott has willfully chosen to sacrifice the lives and health of the children of this state. You may hear plenty of “it’s my right” talk coming from Republicans and especially Libertarians who don’t want to wear a mask in public but they’re wrong. 

Isn’t your right to drive drunk? Shouldn’t parents be able to decide whether or not to use a car seat for infants and toddlers? Why can’t paint companies and gasoline refiners use lead in their products like they used to? The answer is public health; we all have a right to life and health that cannot be subordinated to the right of an individual to just do as they please. That’s why government must have the power to mandate public mask wearing and should use it at this critical time. In fact the U.S. Constitution makes that very point in the preamble which states: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Here in Texas the weekly number of new, confirmed cases of COVID-19 is now greater than it was last year at this time. Hospital capacities in ICU’s all over the state are again near peak levels and deaths are again on the rise. As parents, children, and teachers prepare for the new school year its incumbent on school boards and administrations to look out for the best interests of those children. It’s important that they consider the best available information.

At the request of the North Carolina legislature Duke University researchers tracked COVID-19 transmission in North Carolina K-12 schools across 100 school districts, 14 charter schools, 160,549 school staffers, and more than 864,515 students attending in-school instruction.  The researchers, Dr. Kanecia Zimmerman, associate professor of pediatrics at the Duke University School of Medicine, and Dr. Danny Benjamin, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Duke Health wrote; “We have learned a few things for certain. Although vaccination is the best way to prevent COVID-19, universal masking is a close second, and with masking in place, in-school learning is safe and more effective than remote instruction, regardless of community rates of infection.”

Dr. Benjamin stressed the efficacy of universal in-school masking in an interview with PBS News Hour stating “What we found was despite having extremely widespread COVID in the communities in North Carolina, if universal masking is in place, the chances of one child infecting another is less than 1 percent,” he said. Voluntary masking, on the other hand, is about as useless as universal masking is effective. “Having a voluntary mask policy is like having a no-peeing section of a pool or a no-smoking section on an airplane,” Dr. Benjamin explained. “That’s absurd.”

Given their constitutional duty to promote the general welfare, in this case public health, it is necessary for all levels of government to have the ability to impose mask mandates as appropriate in order to protect the lives and health of our children whether some parents are smart enough to understand that or not. Gov. Abbott’s presidential ambitions are insufficient cause to sacrifice our precious children’s health or lives.

JC Dufresne is a local Democrat.

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