EDITORIAL BY THE SUNBURY DAILY ITEM: Adjusting to new facts, science

In this July 29 file photo, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announces that he iss calling a special session to take up a proposal to lift the state’s ban on face mask mandates in public schools.

COVID-19 has never been picky about who it infects.

Since it emerged out of China in early 2020 and arrived in the United States weeks later, COVID has found the gaps in our mitigation or lapses in judgment to continue to wreak havoc.

We are in the midst of another spike. The United States is averaging more than 120,000 COVID cases per day nationally. That is more than at any time in the spring or summer of 2020 and more than the spike over this past spring. Less than two months ago — on June 22 — the U.S. was averaging 11,328 per day.

For the better part of a year, the nation’s most vulnerable — older Americans and immunocompromised — were those who suffered the most from the virus. That isn’t the case anymore because of a staggering number of Americans who have yet to get vaccinated despite an abundance of availability for months.

According to the CDC, 40.5 percent of patients hospitalized last week were between the ages of 18 and 49. Medical professionals say more than 90 percent of those hospitalized with COVID symptoms are not vaccinated and the percentage of COVID-related deaths of unvaccinated individuals is higher than that.

To make matters — significantly worse in some areas — we have politicians who are not only playing politics with a pandemic but are also putting the lives of tens of thousands of people, including children, in danger to show how “strong” they are.

Florida Gov. Ron Desantis and Texas’s Greg Abbott and their actions are dangerous. White House COVID Response Team coordinator Jeff Zients said this week that in Florida, where Desantis bans mask mandates, and in Texas, where Abbott just challenged one county’s mask mandate in court, cases are raging as the delta variant takes hold. Zients said Florida has more COVID cases than the 30 states with the lowest rates combined. Forty percent of all new COVID hospitalizations in the United States are in Texas and Florida.

Desantis has threatened to withhold funding to schools who put in mask mandates, then pivoted to docking the salaries of school administrators who required masks when schools opened. He has backed off such threats, but still said this week that forcing a child to wear a mask is “child abuse.”

It’s an absurd notion in a growing number of absurd notions, as is Abbott’s suit against Dallas County for requiring face masks in schools and in businesses.

Listen, we get that backtracking might not be the best politics. But until we get more people vaccinated, until more people take the “personal responsibility” that both governors preach, allowing local decisions to be made is the right thing to do.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson understands that. Last week, Hutchinson said he regrets signing a bill earlier this year that banned state and local mask mandates.

“Facts change and leaders have to adjust to the new facts that you have and the reality of what you have to deal with,” Hutchinson said. “I realized that we needed to have more options for our local school districts to protect those children.”

These are difficult and unpopular decisions. Those decisions are best made locally.

— The (Sunbury) Daily Item


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