[Names other than my own and have been redacted. Needless to say, we are in Texas near the DFW Metroplex.]
This is an open letter to the Superintendent, ISD Administration, and the ISD Board of Trustees:
My name is James Jarrett. I am 46 years old and in reasonably good health. My family and I have made ______ our home for the past 14 years. I am a front-line healthcare worker supporting patients and their families in hospice care both here in ______ and in the surrounding region.
At my wife’s and my request, our youngest daughter (a student in the 5th Grade at ______ Intermediate School) has worn a mask to school every day since the 2021-22 school year began. Remember, however, that her mask protects other people from her germs. Other people’s masks protect her from their germs. As I’m sure you are aware, hardly anyone is wearing masks in _ISD so far this year.
This past week, that same youngest daughter tested positive for COVID-19 (with symptoms). Yesterday, a PCR test confirmed I also am positive for COVID-19 (with symptoms). I am fully vaccinated and in reasonably good health. Because of that, I am hopeful that my breakthrough infection will pass in the next several days without more serious symptoms or the need for hospitalization.
I write today not so much for myself as on behalf of the medically fragile people in our community. People for whom a COVID-19 diagnosis may still be a death sentence. These are our parents, our grandparents, our siblings, our spouses, our friends, and our children. They are the people that our _ISD students, teachers, and support staff go home to each day bringing the miasma of germs they have picked up in _ISD facilities. These people are us.
Vaccinations are an important component in protecting the people in our community and around the world from COVID-19. I applaud _ISD for providing information and the readily accessible vaccine clinics you continue to make available in our community. This is not enough. Personal protective equipment (masks), physical distancing, regular hand hygiene, and symptom screening remain 4 necessary tools in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and for protecting the people who need it most.
As an example of the effectiveness of these 4 protocols, I offer the example of UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Every day on its COVID-19 page, UTSW publishes the infections rates among its 19,000 employee population in the following table:
As you can see from the right-hand column, the total number of COVID-19 infections due to on-campus exposure among UTSW’s 19,000 employees since March 1, 2020 is 72. Seventy-two people out of 19,000 have contracted the virus. Why is this number so low? This is partly due to the vaccines. Also, because UTSW has required masks, physical distance, hand hygiene, and symptom screening for all employees and visitors to its clinical facilities since March, 2020 when the pandemic began–long before the vaccines became available.
When these 4 necessary protective measures were in place in _ISD during the 2020-21 school year, I was confident that the 4 _ISD students living in my household were as protected as they could have been from COVID-19. And everyone else was too. As soon as the vaccines were available, everyone in our immediate family got them and are now fully vaccinated. Except for our youngest daughter who just turned 11 in August 2021–the 5th grader at ______ Intermediate School who came home from school with COVID this week. She is too young to be vaccinated.
I have been dismayed at _ISD’s refusal to keep in place the protections it did during last school year. And my concern has proven valid. These 4 protective measures are even more crucial now with the delta variant running rampant through the people in our community.
Under the Health Protocols section of the _ISD website the district states the following regarding face coverings:
“Per the Governor’s Order (GA-38), school systems cannot require students or staff to wear a mask. However, we are encouraging all students, staff, and visitors to wear masks while indoors when social distancing is not feasible.”
This year, there are 3 _ISD students living in our household attending 3 different campuses (______ Intermediate, ______ High School, and ______ ______ High School). The daily emails we receive from _ISD about the COVID-19 infection rate on each campus reveal that “encouragement” is not enough. It is not working. The number of infections are already noticeably higher than they were at any point last school year. Especially in light of the more contagious delta variant, why would we not do everything possible to protect the weak, the vulnerable, and the medically fragile people in our community?
Wearing a mask, washing our hands, maintaining physical distance, and symptom screening are simple practices by which we can help each other through this perilous time. This pandemic has demonstrated more clearly than anything in any of our lifetimes that we are not isolated individuals. We are all connected with each other. What affects one, affects us all.
“Individual freedom” is not valid if its exercise impacts another person’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. “Following orders” has been used before to justify unspeakable atrocities against humanity. There is what is legal and there is what is right.
Requiring masks, hand hygiene, physical distancing, and symptom screening for all _ISD students, staff, and visitors, is the human thing to do. I appeal to your humanity and implore each of you to use your positions of public trust to do whatever is necessary to act without delay for the protection of the people touched by our _ISD community–our ______ Family.
Thank each of you for your consideration and attention to this important matter.
Love One Person