Republican Virginia governor signs law banning school mask mandates with bipartisan support

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Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin signs a bill banning mask mandates in Virginia public schools on the steps of the Capitol Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

On Wednesday, Republican Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin signed into law Senate Bill (SB) 739 after it was passed by the state legislature. Municipal school boards across the state are prohibited by law from issuing mask mandates in public education.

“Today we are returning the power to the parents,” the governor said from the lawn of the state capitol in Richmond. Youngkin inserted an “emergency clause” into the law that allows it to take effect March 1, rather than six months from now, as most state laws do.

The sweeping ban goes beyond guidelines from Democratic Party-led states, which also dropped statewide masking requirements in recent weeks. According to Washington Post, “In these states … localities continue to have the option of requiring masks in schools”, while “the new law in Virginia goes even further”. The current law gives parents “the right to abstain, which renders any mandate inapplicable”.

The passage of the law by the Senate and the state House relied on the critical support of the Virginia Democratic Party. The bill’s passage through the Democratic-controlled Senate last week hinged on the support of 19 Republican senators and three Democrats. Democratic Senator Chap Peterson of Fairfax City in the liberal enclave of Northern Virginia backed the measure, saying declining case counts statewide meant masking policies were no longer warranted.

The absurdity of this claim is exposed as soon as one looks at the actual statewide coronavirus data. According to the state Department of Health, daily cases of COVID-19 have fallen from nearly 20,000 a day last month to around 4,000.

The rapid fall, which is still at the levels seen last fall, is mainly attributable to the distribution of personal tests at home. According to WAVY, “As free federal COVID-19 tests begin to arrive in mailboxes in Virginia and North Carolina, lines at community testing sites are getting shorter.

While the free kits are “good news for those looking for testing”, they are “bad news for ECUs. Tests performed at home may be reported to the state, but often are not.

Efforts by state Democrats to block the law from taking effect next month on procedural grounds have even been thwarted. Republicans passed the bill with the amended “emergency clause” without a supermajority, citing “rule changes enacted under Democratic leadership over the past two years” allowing for a simple majority, wrote the To post .

The passage of the bill with critical support from the Democratic Party reflects national developments. Phil Murphy, Democratic Governor of New Jersey, announced the end of the mask mandate for schools and daycares starting March 7. Murphy joined fellow Delaware and Connecticut Democratic Governors John Carney and Ned Lamont and Massachusetts Republican Governor Charlie Baker with their own plans for the lifting requirements. The state of Pennsylvania’s mask mandate was lifted last month.

The passage of SB739 renders irrelevant a series of lawsuits filed by parents who sought to enforce Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mask guidelines in schools. These cases were already running into difficulties in state courts. Earlier in the month, the Virginia Supreme Court dismissed on procedural grounds a lawsuit brought by a group of 13 Chesapeake parents challenging an executive order signed by Youngkin that banned mask requirements.

The Youngkin administration’s claim to restore parents’ rights is absurd on its face. Essentially, the right upheld by the state is the “right” to be infected, to spread COVID-19, and to die. Despite this posture, a Washington Post an analysis late last month found that more than half of school districts in the state, representing nearly 70% of all students, continued to comply with masking requirements despite the administration’s executive order then in force.

A Washington Post -A George Mason University poll taken in September, as Youngkin was running for governor on an anti-mask platform, shows that 96% of self-identified Democrats and 66% of independents supported masking at the ‘school. Republican voters were split almost down the middle.

“The way it all happened, in my mind I just imagine Governor Youngkin as Veruca Salt,” Amanda Lambert, a 9th grade teacher from Chesapeake County told the To post. “I don’t care how, I want it now!”

Others responded with disgust to the governor’s social media announcement: “You are making teachers’ jobs even harder, you are putting students, teachers and staff at risk, and you are undermining professional educators who try to do an already difficult job for too little pay,” the newspaper read. most popular response on Youngkin’s Twitter feed.

Youngkin, in issuing the previous orders, claimed, without evidence, that masking “increases feelings of isolation, exacerbates mental health issues”, thereby posing a higher risk to children than COVID-19.

Although masking and vaccines alone do not completely stop the transmission and disease of COVID-19, they are very effective, especially when it comes to the use of high quality masks, such as the KN95 variety. . Instead of providing free, high-quality masks and a public education campaign to ensure those masks are used correctly, Youngkin is pushing the ruling class’ “Let ‘er rip” mass infection campaign.

The newly signed law wasn’t the only broadside fired at schoolchildren and parents in Virginia in recent days. In late January, Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares issued a legal opinion stating that public universities in the state do not have the authority to require vaccination against COVID-19. Shortly after the ruling, major universities in the state dropped their vaccination mandates.

In addition to ensuring the community spread of COVID-19, the cumulative impact of this law will be to drive families with immunocompromised members out of the public school system, creating an influx of entries into private for-profit schools and charters. . This, in turn, will accelerate the destruction and underfunding of public education. Families unable to access this option will be forced to try their luck in dangerous schools, many will fall ill and die.

The policy of mass infection advocated by the ruling class and big business, designed to keep workers in the workplace and to keep their children in school, runs counter to sound public health policy. and common sense in which the welfare of the general public is paramount.

The working class must fight for politics that puts public health first and fight to end the pandemic by eliminating COVID-19 – through socialist policies independent of both capitalist parties and their lackeys in the bureaucracy. union.

About Marjorie C. Hudson

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