Gov. Jay Inslee announced weeks ago that school mask mandates in Washington state would come to an end on March 21. But as the infection rate and hospitalizations continued to drop, Gov. Inslee eventually moved the date up to March 12. California and Oregon also planned to put an end to indoor mask mandates on the same day. But teacher’s unions in Washington state are urging schools to keep the mandates in place, claiming that ending the mandates too quickly could “cause serious harm.”
“Masks contribute to feelings of safety and normalcy that schools provide our students. Removing masks will significantly disrupt that sense of normalcy, and educators will struggle to explain to students why we are removing masks so soon,” the educators wrote to King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin and interim Director Dennis Worsham.
The letter goes on to say that “prematurely allowing the mask requirement to expire in King County schools could cause serious harm.” Allowing mask removal earlier, school union officials claim, will “result in significant anxiety for many students, families, and educators, and exacerbate rather than help with the mental health crisis for them.”
“Second, we believe the negative impacts of lifting the mask mandate would be most heavily felt by our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities as well as by people with disabilities,” it continues.
Seattle Public Schools have also put out a statement saying that masks will remain in place for now:
Seattle Public Schools is aware of Governor Inslee’s plan to lift the state mask mandate on March 11, 2022.
Implementation in the school district must meet the unique health and safety needs of our students, families, and staff. Seattle Public Schools continues to look to guidance from Public Health – Seattle & King County.
SPS will: Continue until further notice with our current policy requiring mask use by all students, staff, visitors and others while they are indoors and outdoors at all SPS buildings;
How long will the unions drag this out? It could be for another two months according to a statement from the union president:
Jennifer Matter is the president of the teachers union. She said Monday that the union wants to see mask rules lift no sooner than two weeks after spring break, or May 1, which is two months from now.
Matter said they want to see whether there’s a spike in cases after the most recent break, and again see what happens with cases in schools after spring break.
“We believe there should be no rush to lift the mask mandate,” Matter said.
So if the unions get their way, May 1 is the earliest the mandates could be lifted. And that would apparently apply outside as well as inside the classroom.
Seattle isn’t the only place where unions are doing this. California and Illinois both lifted mask mandates but in San Francisco and Chicago teacher’s unions demanded masking continue. Teachers in Washington, DC did the same thing.
Obviously if case rates were to suddenly spike that guidance could change but that hasn’t happened. The New York Times COVID tracker shows cases are down in Washington 47% in the past 14 days. Hospitalizations are down 36 percent and deaths are down 37%.
There’s no reason to drag this out another two months given that everyone from the CDC on down has said it’s safe to drop mandates. It’s impossible for these unions to claim they are following the science at this point so instead they are talking about the anxiety of parents and educators.