Republican Glenn Youngkin was sworn in as Virginia's 74th governor on Saturday, releasing a flurry of executive orders within minutes of assuming office. Among his directives was a rescission of the Commonwealth's mask mandate in schools (he also ended a COVID vaccine mandate for state employees). As of today, parents will have an opt-out for their children. Youngkin's move on this front was met with outrage and hyperbole from many leftists and journalists -- there's strong overlap, of course -- who framed the move as dangerous for kids and anti-science. In reality, this was a pro-science and pro-child decision:
Here is the sort of coverage Youngkin is generating:
Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin has named a respected physician who opposes blanket vaccine mandates and downplayed the threat of the coronavirus to children as his lead adviser on pandemic response https://t.co/KGHSFxYtxB— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) January 15, 2022
Dropping the school mask mandate in the middle of the biggest Covid-19 surge of the pandemic is quite the choice https://t.co/J0Lbe4YVJ6— Bill Scher (@billscher) January 15, 2022
What makes @GlennYoungkin different from other GOP govs who've banned mask mandates is the timing -- amid the most infectious variant yet, as record numbers of kids are being hospitalized and staffing shortages are crippling schools. https://t.co/J4Okdxbhiw— Heidi Przybyla (@HeidiNBC) January 15, 2022
The Washington Post headline is referring to Dr. Marty Makary, who has indeed opposed blanket government mandates, has been a strong proponent of the relevance of natural immunity, and who has accurately downplayed the threat of coronavirus to children. He is an excellent selection by Youngkin. Children are extremely, extremely low risk for severe outcomes from COVID. Far fewer American children have died from or with COVID over the course of the pandemic than die from drowning or car accidents in an average year. And even Dr. Anthony Fauci is admitting that many or most of the children currently hospitalized with COVID were admitted for conditions other than COVID. That's the data. That's the science.
As for the latter critiques, it's once again time to revisit our many analyses of data pointing to the efficacy of school mask mandates being unsupportable. We've written about how the United Kingdom long ago rejected most required masking in schools, meeting with favorable outcomes. We've written about how the European CDC does not recommend blanket school masking. We've highlighted pieces written by non-conservatives underscoring precisely this same point, and exposing pro-school masking studies as methodologically faulty. One such study was cited by the NBC reporter after she was challenged on her assertion. Conveniently, we'd previously fact checked the exact article she chose to share while falsely claiming that the research supporting her position is "conclusive." We also passed along this new data out of the UK:
The government admits the evidence for using masks in schools to reduce spread of Covid is "not conclusive". The uncertainty is acknowledged in a review used by ministers in England to make their decision to introduce face coverings in classrooms. The government's own study in the autumn did not provide proof of a statistically significant impact. It includes the results of a study in 123 schools in England which used masks and compared that to others that did not during the Delta wave of Covid. The UK is currently experiencing the spread of an even more infectious variant - Omicron - but there is not enough data yet on this one and masks. Schools where face coverings were used in October 2021 saw a reduction two to three weeks later in Covid absences from 5.3% to 3% - a drop of 2.3 percentage points. In schools which did not use face coverings absences fell from 5.3% to 3.6% - a fall of 1.7 percentage points. It said this was not statistically significant and the greater reduction in schools where masks were worn could be down to chance. The review also acknowledges the use of face coverings could harm learning. But a full analysis of the costs versus benefits of the policy has not been done. This is despite 94% of school leaders and teachers saying it made communication between teachers and pupils more difficult.
Another data point illustrating the same phenomenon:
3 Colorado Counties under one health department. They break up over school mask mandates. On Nov 24, two of the counties move to indoor mask mandates.— Karl Dierenbach (@Dierenbach) January 10, 2022
The mask mandate does nothing. All three counties have the same results. pic.twitter.com/8lfY2KWtrP
As it happens, the county that didn't move to a mask mandate in schools had the lowest COVID case incidence out of the three when cases peaked -- but the trajectories were all identical. Masks didn't make a difference. And there's this:
There are clear learning, development and social downsides to forcing kids to wear face-coverings for eight hours a day. There are not clear benefits. And yet, following the actual science is pilloried as "anti-science" and irresponsible by people who fetishize science. For them, face coverings maintain mystical totem status, regardless of the data. Their point that it's supposedly even more reckless to lift mask mandates in schools during the omicron wave is also irrational. We know that commonly-worn masks are not effective at stopping transmission; even a COVID safetyist CNN doctor has called cloth masks "face decorations" at this point. The variant is extremely contagious and significantly less severe. Kids were already at vanishingly low risk of being hospitalized due to COVID, let alone dying. Omicron is more transmissible and less dangerous, and cloth masks do nothing. Having a mask mandate in place to combat it makes even less sense than ever.
If some parents want their own children to wear fitted medical-grade masks all day long, they're more than welcome to make that choice, which many other parents view as impractical or even harmful. That's the beauty of choice. But the school mask dead-enders don't want to merely make decisions for their own kids; they want to impose their scientifically-dubious superstitions onto everyone else. Gov. Youngkin has said no to that. Good for him. Several blue counties (Arlingtin and Fairfax were the first) are already defying the order and announcing they'll keep mask requirements on all students. A fight is brewing. Fight them, governor. Meanwhile, here's an easy rebuttal of another popular progressive hot take, which ridicules Youngkin's order barring Critical Race Theory from classrooms in Virginia government schools. They continue to cling to the debunked lie that CRT is a myth, as defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe repeatedly and wrongly claimed during his unsuccessful campaign:
I'll leave you with Gov. Youngkin's inaugural comments on education:
Governor @GlennYoungkin: "Parents SHOULD have a say in what is taught in schools."— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) January 15, 2022
"Parents have a fundamental right to make decisions with regard to their child's upbringing, education, and care." pic.twitter.com/3EWtP856aB
It seems like this sort of harmful, science-denying nonsense would not fly in Glenn Youngkin's Virginia.