Editorial

Local school districts need to go beyond urging the use of masks and require them for all who enter a campus.

COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the Crossroads, with many cases reported in our local schools. Most children are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine and their only defense from the virus is a mask. Only children 12 years or older are eligible for the vaccine leaving many unprotected.

As of Monday, more than 600 students and school employees have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Crossroads since schools reopened earlier this month, according to state and local data. Many of those cases come from the area’s largest districts: Victoria, Calhoun and Cuero. At Victoria, 220 people have tested positive with 190 among students. At Calhoun, 259 have tested positive with 239 students testing positive. At Cuero, 194 staff and students have tested positive.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend all who enter a school setting should wear a mask despite their vaccination status.

The delta variant of COVID-19 spreads much faster than we have seen before, and schools are a quick way to spread the virus, if we are not proactive and intentional with our safety measures.

A recent poll done by the Advocate asking parents if they would like to see mask mandates in schools, showed 55.2% agreed to masking up. About 87 people participated in the poll.

More and more children are getting sick with COVID-19 because of the delta variant, which was unprecedented, Pediatrics Specialist Dr. Manju Sachdev said Aug. 25 at a panel held at St. Joseph High School.

“I have never seen an infection that does what COVID does to children,” Sachdev said.

With pediatric cases on the rise, now is not the time to leave the safety of our students to chance. Masks are the answer to better protect our children.

David Gonzales, Victoria County Health Department director, agrees that masks are the answer to protecting our children.

“We do recommend that parents have their kids in face masks, because when you’re in those settings, when you can’t socially distance within a classroom, it’s really all you have to protect yourself and try to limit the spread in those settings,” said Gonzales.

The reason mask mandates aren’t in place currently is because of an order passed down by Gov. Greg Abbott. The order states public entities, like schools, cannot mandate masks.

But many school districts put the protection of their students first.

Districts such as Dallas ISD, Austin ISD and Waco ISD have all required their students to wear masks, at least in the beginning parts of the school year to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Because of pending litigation surrounding mask mandates in schools, the governor’s orders are not being enforced, according to the Texas Education Agency. This means our local school districts can and should mandate masks without fear of state repercussions.

It is time our school districts in the Crossroads take the much needed step to protect our kids.

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This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate’s editorial board.

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