January 20, 2022 News & Press Releases

ICYMI: Editorial Boards Slam Gov. Youngkin for Putting Politics Over the Health and Safety of Children

by Democratic Party of Virginia

“Some of them will get very sick; and some are likely to die — all in the name of Mr. Youngkin’s warped idea of personal liberty,” — The Washington Post

Richmond, VA —The Washington Post and The Virginian-Pilot editorial boards slammed Gov. Glenn Youngkin this week after he signed an executive order that bans school divisions from requiring students to wear masks as COVID-19 cases surge. 

Gov. Youngkin threatened to use official state resources to defund Virginia schools after school divisions across the Commonwealth rejected the governor’s illegal executive order eliminating mask requirements in schools as COVID-19 cases surge.

On Tuesday, reports surfaced that parents from Chesapeake filed suit in the Virginia Supreme Court against Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s illegal executive order that rescinds mask requirements in schools across Virginia. 

Excerpts from the editorials can be found below:

The Washington Post: Opinion: Youngkin’s illogic on masks

In issuing an executive order banning mask mandates in Virginia public schools, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin said he was standing up for parents and their right to decide what’s best for their kids. In fact, he was standing squarely against the large majority of Virginians, including parents, who support mask mandates in schools for their own children and for others.

The right response to Mr. Youngkin’s order is resolute resistance by the state’s school districts, especially in regions where the virus is running rampant — which is most places these days. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly recommend continued mask-wearing for children in schools, a stance that Virginia’s own chapter of the AAP reiterated in response to Mr. Youngkin’s order. They are the health experts; they should be heeded by responsible school officials.

Mr. Youngkin, who issued the order upon being inaugurated on Saturday, has framed his decision as promoting liberty. What nonsense. Virginia law requires that children under the age of 18 be buckled up when they are in moving vehicles; parents are legally liable if they are not. There is no exemption to that rule based on individual “liberty”; it is grounded in personal safety and public health, just as mask mandates are. [...]

It is true that children are less likely than adults to become severely ill from contracting the coronavirus, or to be hospitalized or die. It is also the case that some 8.5 million American children have tested positive for the virus in the past two years, and nearly 11 percent of those cases were added in the last week of December and the first week of January, according to tracking data from the AAP. Each week, children represent roughly some 17 percent of new cases; since the start of September, 3.4 million kids have tested positive.

Those are huge numbers. They mean that even if children are less likely than adults to transmit the virus to other adults in a school setting, as data suggest, even a small rate of child-to-adult transmission will yield many new adult cases. Some of those adults will be especially vulnerable owing to preexisting health conditions. Some of them will get very sick; and some are likely to die — all in the name of Mr. Youngkin’s warped idea of personal liberty. [...]

The Virginian-Pilot: Editorial: The battle over masks

At a time when COVID infections in Virginia are setting records and hospitals across the commonwealth are at their breaking point, it would be irresponsible to push any measure that could undermine public health.

That is especially true when it affects the continuity of public education in Virginia. Children have suffered enough disruptions during the pandemic and our collective goal should be avoiding additional turbulence.

Why, then, would Gov. Glenn Youngkin choose as his first battle the dispute over whether students, teachers and staff at public schools should wear masks to help prevent further spread of the virus?

One could argue that this is simply a newly elected politician seeking to fulfil a high-profile campaign promise. There seems to be some truth to that. [...]

But the summer months on the campaign trail have given way to a harsh winter of sickness and death. It is a time when health care workers, exhausted and frustrated, are fighting to save lives from the omicron variant of the virus, which is more contagious than previous iterations.

While vaccines, therapeutics and experience battling COVID are saving lives, this isn’t a time to concede ground. Even hospitals are begging Virginians to avoid coming to the emergency room if at all possible. [...]

It’s not simply that the governor would rescind his predecessor’s order but that he would seek to punish communities that defy him. He threatened on Sunday to “use every resource” in his authority to force compliance.

Of course, it’s not only kids that masks would protect, but the teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria and janitorial staff, front-office workers and administrators, as well as the families those hard-working Virginians return to each night.

By taking away a measure of protection from them — under threat of financial penalty — Youngkin undermines a cause to which all Virginians should rally: keeping schools open for in-person instruction.

Already schools are seeing teachers forced from schools due to infection and school systems crippled for a lack of bus drivers. Further infection will only make the situation worse. [...]

Toward that end, there is no reason to escalate this fight, not when a common-sense solution is plainly evident. School systems that want to follow the governor’s lead should do so; those which want to continue to order masks should similarly be left to their decision, without fear of repercussions. [...]