OPINION: If They Cared About Our Health

If FCPS cared about our health, lunch would have contact tracing.

If FCPS cared about our health, athletes would be required to get boosters.

If FCPS cared about our health, cloth masks would be inadequate protection.

If FCPS truly cared about our health, we wouldn’t have school at all.

Stop pretending. FCPS doesn’t care about our health. They care about looking good, even when many of the disruptive changes made in the name of health do next to nothing. If FCPS cared about our health, they wouldn’t need public opinion polling to bolster the studies they claim support masking in schools. The biggest problem isn’t that FCPS doesn’t care about our health, but that FCPS pretends to. Were the pandemic deadlier, the lack of seriousness would be shameful, but we live in a world where, according to the Virginia Department of Health, the odds of someone between the ages of zero and 17 dying of Covid-19 in Fairfax County are around one in 25000. That is to say, one person, one single person, of school age, has died of Covid-19 in this county, since the pandemics onset. This is the disease that we closed the schools over. This disease is what spawned masking requirements. This disease, the one we still pretend we can stop, or even marginally slow down, be it with masks or vaccines, is coming for us all. So be it.

With the advent of the omicron variant, the usefulness of cloth masks has dwindled to nearly nothing, yet students are still required to wear them, required to participate in the charade, hoping the world will go back to normal soon. Some still expect a day when our leaders will step up to the podium and say: “We won. We beat the virus.” That day will never arrive. We’re not going to win. We’re going to adapt, and one day we’ll stop playing pretend, stop appeasing the hypochondriacal impulse imbued in us by two years of fear over a virus that we know to be a minor threat. Increasingly endemic, the only end to this “pandemic” will be when government officials change their rhetoric to reflect the facts on the ground. Those that wish to actually protect themselves with N95 masks should be allowed to, and those of us who have no such fears ought not be forced to mask.

Look around, look in Davala Hall, the dystopian rows of desks, meant to isolate students in their own little bubbles of protection. Ask yourself if there really need to be three different hand sanitizer dispensers in the library’s proximity. Read the Covid-19 guidelines published by FCPS, the complicated, sometimes contradictory regulations. Note the inconsistent masking policies required of dancers, performers, and singers, at one point saying that masks can be eschewed for performances, and yet at another point making no such exception. Finally, look at Robinson, and remember the time before. The time when you could see smiles on faces as you walked through the halls, when you could hear laughter, unmuffled by masks. The freshmen class was there for just seven months, but I remember spending four years in that better place. I remember when the nurses office wouldn’t send a child home for ten days of isolation if they had a headache. I remember attending sporting events. I remember and I want to go back. 

Stop pretending we can beat the virus. Stop hoping that someday there will be a change. Go to a school board meeting and ask why high school choirs are provided an exemption to perform without masks but elementary school choirs are not. Demand to know why students can eat lunch, in close contact, unmasked, but not cheer for their peers at sporting events. Ask them these questions and accept only the truth: nothing about this is about the health of the students, it’s all about appearance, about the illusion of safety, at the cost of us, the students, parents, teachers, and citizens who are forced to labor under this performative regime. Don’t stop there though. Ask them one final question. “When can we expect your resignation?”