Back to school, Jack: Ciattarelli pushing dangerous fallacies on masking | Editorial

Published: Sep. 28, 2021

Everyone should have the opportunity to change his mind on an issue when the facts warrant a reappraisal, so as we enter debate season, this would be the ideal time for Jack Ciattarelli to rethink his opinion on school masking.

Because his current policy position is now quantifiably dangerous: The Republican candidate for governor believes that “masks inhibit learning,” that they have “an adverse effect on their intellectual and emotional development,” and that the “data is pretty clear” when it comes to these points, as he told a Toms River school board recently.

It is unclear whether these are sincerely held beliefs, or theories adopted by political convenience, but this is clear: Ciattarelli would be wise to walk them back, as long as there are experts around to remind him that such dabbles with medical science put him at great risk of fortuitous face plants.

Exhibits A and B: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released two studies last week, both showing that schools without mask mandates experience far more COVID outbreaks.

That’s the fact, Jack. It gets more chilling as you drill deeper.

One CDC study looked at Arizona, where a new state law will prohibit schools from mandating masks: The schools in their most crowded districts without mandates were 3.5 times more likely to have an outbreak.

The other study tracked 500 counties in the U.S. and found that those without school mask requirements had twice as many daily pediatric cases per capita than the districts that applied mandates.

An Arizona State University epidemiologist who took part in the research was blunt: “Universal masking is the cheapest and easiest way for schools to keep kids healthy in the presence of the Delta variant,” he said.

It might help Ciattarelli to read these studies, or the Duke University report that reached similar conclusions last month. Maybe then he would acknowledge that wearing a mask is a powerful statement of civic responsibility, and a very good lesson to pass along to our kids.

That isn’t likely, however, because people like Ciattarelli have come to believe that masks represent a surrender to the tyranny of shuttered saloons and boarded-up burger joints.

Indeed, he has a right to his misperception, but in this case, this detachment from reality is dangerous.

Ever since George Washington ordered the Continental Army to get their smallpox jabs, it has been established that government plays a crucial role in public health. Yet Ciattarelli has aligned himself with anti-vaxxers, stating throughout the campaign that “I don’t think government has any right to tell any individual they have to take a vaccine or a medicine.”

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To determine whether the candidate has evolved on this issue, we asked his spokesman, who repeated that “Jack does not support mandates, he supports choice.”

Imagine giving parents a “choice” of whether to give their child the MMR vaccine before they attend school, as all 50 states have mandated since the 1970s. Measles is so contagious that nine out of 10 unprotected people will catch the disease if an infected person so much as coughs near them. Then it can kill them.

Still, Ciattarelli would keep government out of that decision, even if it has saved generations of kids, because he has “always been about bodily autonomy,” and “medical freedom,” and “vaccine choice.”

Take that, General Washington.

Sure, masks are an irritant.

But we’re still in the middle innings of this pandemic, and normal is still beyond our reach. That’s one reason why a whopping 66 percent of Americans believe that students should be masked, according to the last Monmouth poll.

Translation: Until we can get everyone vaccinated, we should err on the side of caution and do what it takes to keep our schools open.

That is harder to accomplish when candidates for high office place the welfare of children below their opportunity to pander to the anti-mask fringe. Come back, Jack. We’re starting to hear the branch creak.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-09-29 05:55:29 -0700