Dothan Eagle on Chip Brown being wrong on pre-filed legislation

Chip Brown, an Alabama lawmaker from Mobile, just doesn’t get it. Alabama is among the states where the majority of people haven’t gotten the coronavirus vaccine, where greater than 90% of COVID-19 patients on ventilators are unvaccinated, and where there are no available ICU beds for incoming patients with life-threatening COVID infections or any other malady.

New cases and deaths are on the upswing, yet only one in three school systems across the state have made facial masks mandatory for students and staff.

Brown might’ve taken an initiative to err on the side of prudence, perhaps filing legislation that would mandate masks in all public schools, and/or require all adult staff and faculty to be vaccinated. Such a move might mitigate the spread of the virus and its variants.

Instead, Brown pre-filed legislation that undermines the efforts of the state’s public health officials by giving parents of students attending mandatory masking schools a mechanism to opt out and their children into a potential petri dish without a face mask, increasing the potential of their infection, or of their infecting others.

“To me it’s a parental rights bill,” Brown told al.com. “By mandating something on children, we’re basically telling the parents their supervision of their children doesn’t matter. So, I think it goes back to who’s raising the child. And I think in the end, parents should have the right to opt out, if they want to opt out.”

Here’s another perspective: Alabama law (Title 16, Section 28) requires that youngsters between the ages of 6 and 17 attend school. Should the state abdicate its responsibility to provide a safe and healthy environment for the students it demands attend school?

Rep. Brown would better serve the people of Alabama by working to defeat the coronavirus pandemic rather than pander to those who may doubt its threat, severity, or even its existence.

Kingsport (Tennessee) Times on opt-out clause leaves children at risk

Masks are back and with good reason as the delta COVID variant fills local hospitals and death tolls rise, including a Kingsport father and son who passed the same day holding hands. Billy Truman Smith, 55, and son Billy Matthew Smith, 39, died Aug. 25.

Fortunately, the Kingsport Board of Education reversed course within a week, declining in a work session to return a mask mandate but voting just three days later to reinstate it. Unfortunately, Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order allowing parents to opt their children out of a mask will leave some number of children at high risk, even as the delta variant targets them.

From the start of the pandemic in Tennessee, Lee refused to order a mask mandate and would not waver despite that the state quickly led much of the country in infections. Earlier this year Lee boasted, “We have never had a statewide mask mandate, and I am removing authority from local officials to issue mask requirements” in declaring the COVID crisis in Tennessee to be over, despite that it wasn’t. The same day, Tennessee was 13th in the nation in total cases, 15th in total deaths and 19th in new deaths.

Professor William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University, responded that “COVID continues to be a serious public health urgency throughout the state. The virus is still spreading. It’s still putting many people into the hospital.”

Yet Lee doubled down, issuing an executive order Aug. 16 giving parents the right to opt their children out of any mask mandate as schools were returning to them due to soaring infections.

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