Since March 2020, America and the world have been in the devastating grips of COVID-19, its cousin the Delta variant, and its more distant relation the Lamda variant. Americans have experienced unprecedented shutdowns of almost every facet of day-to-day life, employment, education, economics, entertainment. In 2021 as the covid vaccines began to be administered to the general population, Americans were eager in their quest to reclaim their pre-pandemic normalcy, only to be thwarted by the Delta variant, which is now known to be more contagious and dangerous. When COVID-19 ﬁrst arrived on the scene, the main targets appeared to be the 50-and-up age group.
However, with the arrival of the Delta variant, that scenario quickly changed. Emergency rooms across the country are ﬁlling up with patients who are noticeably younger. Sally Goze, former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, stated in an interview over the weekend that the Delta variant "is not last year’s covid. This one is worse, and our children are the ones that are going to be affected by it the most." Once thought of as immune to the ravaging effects of COVID19, pediatric hospitals are conﬁrming that the Delta variant is placing children as young as 7 weeks old on ventilators. The Department of Health and Human Services reported that 2.4% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 are children. With the reopening of public and private schools across the country these next several weeks, educators and administrators are concerned for the lives of students, teachers, and other school staff, which is why many school districts in Republican-run states are disregarding mask mandate bans and requiring all to wear a mask.
Opponents of mask mandates argue that masks are harmful to children and an infringement on the rights of parents to make decisions for their child, whereas the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) “strongly endorses the use of safe and effective infection control procedures to protect children and adolescents.” The AAP also concluded that “face masks can be safely worn by all children 2 years of age and older,” and that this age group have “demonstrated their ability to war a face mask.” But despite having the approval of board-certiﬁed pediatricians, the very same pediatricians who are treating children stricken with COVID19 in pediatric hospitals across the country, the politics of mandating mask wearing for children is still being met with opposition. The obstinate stance against public mask wearing is not segregated to just schools. The pushback has extended into day-to-day activities. How did we arrive at this point? With the arrival of the covid vaccines last winter, it was thought that if at least 75% of the U.S. population were vaccinated, the deadly virus could be paused, if not stopped and eradicated completely. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky told journalists at a news conference that if “you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic. We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy." President Joe Biden piggy-backed that announcement: “If you’ve been fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask … but if you have not been vaccinated you still need to wear a mask.” At the time of the new guidance, COVID-19 infections were decreasing and hospitalizations “were at the lowest since April 2020.”
The horror was that immunizations began to stall, and misinformation created vaccine hesitancy which overwhelmed the country. Continuing research on the Delta variant concluded that the vaccinated can become infected, unknowingly spread, and fall ill from the virus. While those who are vaccinated can indeed contract the virus, the symptoms are mild, and the outcomes are positive. Again, the CDC pivoted on its position of mask wearing for those vaccinated by advising “wear a mask in public indoor settings if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission.” In Florida, African Americans comprised only 9% of the total state’s population that received the COVID-19 vaccine, made up for 15% of new cases, and 17% of all covidrelated deaths. But within the last two weeks, Florida, along with four other states – Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri – have seen an increase of African Americans getting vaccinated by 3.7%. This is promising news, but perhaps overall not quite enough to discourage the rampant contagion that is the Delta variant.
With states like Florida anxious to get back to pre-pandemic economics and some resemblance of normalcy, the Delta variant has caused unwanted roadblocks. When many businesses reopened their doors to the public in the early summer of 2020, mask mandates were in place. Once the vaccine was rolled out, businesses adjusted their mask mandate. Masks became optional. On May 3, 2021, Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted mask restrictions across the state of Florida by stating that with the arrival of the vaccines, “local communities lack justiﬁcation in continuing to impose COVID-19 mandates or restrictions upon their citizens.” Therefore DeSantis ascertained that “it is necessary for the State of Florida to enhance its rapid and orderly restoration and recovery from the COVID-19 emergency by preempting and suspending all remaining local emergency restrictions on individuals and businesses and to return day-today life back to normal everywhere in the State.” As the Delta variant arrived in the states, governors in Republican states, primarily in the South, fervently dismissed the need to evolve with the data provided by experts in the ﬁelds of medicine and science. This is a factor in the exponential spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 across the country. Some politicians like DeSantis even issued mask mandate bans after the CDC guidance suggesting that everyone, the vaccinated and unvaccinated, wear masks in high-risk indoor spaces, to further prevent the commercial sector from protecting itself and the public.