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Harry's Gang: Mask debates defy logic

I find it hard to understand how wearing a mask in public has become a political issue. But it has. To me, it's an example of how easily politicians and talking heads can manipulate people's viewpoints on subjects they know little about, and how easily propaganda can convince people of illogical and unrealistic facts.

Spreading misinformation seems to bind some people together, getting a large block of people to mistrust the authorities seems to be a favorite tool of those with an unclear agenda as they spread falsehoods.

Why, exactly, are people so fearful of wearing masks? The answers I hear don't make sense.

It's not about freedom or our rights under the Constitution. The Constitution actually requires the government to provide for our general welfare. It's written right onto the document, more clearly and explicitly than the amendment that protects our gun rights.

I can't believe people think that wearing a protective mask is more dangerous than contracting a very unpleasant and sometimes deadly disease. The virus has a low death rate - so what? If gonorrhea has a near zero-percent death rate, I don't know anyone who would willingly expose themselves to it.

The paranoid claims that the Centers for Disease Control has some sinister agenda are crazy. When you can't explain something rationally, toss in a conspiracy. They are unprovable but people will follow you.

Wearing a mask all the time is uncomfortable. They itch. They can get smelly, and it's harder to breathe. I can understand why people don't want to wear them. I just can't understand the craziness behind most of their arguments against them.

My wife feels much more strongly about it. She's smart. She has advanced training in the sciences and has a master's degree, so I listen to her, even when I don't agree with her 100 percent. She has explained to me that children under 12 are not yet allowed to get a vaccine, as more testing is needed. She pointed out that the elementary schools are ripe for an outbreak, especially for the new Delta variant. Here's what she wrote to Cloquet school board members before they voted this week to require masks in the schools:

"I wanted to speak up as a parent who does not typically contact you. I have never spoken up at a school board meeting, and I don't feel like I need to convince other parents what they should think or do about masking at this point in the pandemic. This is simple for me: if Cloquet does not require masks for children under 12, I'll need to pull my second-grader out of school. She's not able to get vaccinated yet, and likely won't be able to until winter or spring, based on projections.

"Considering the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) tracking information ... Carlton County is in the 'substantial' spread zone for Covid-19. We also know that Minnesota has community spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19, and that the Delta variant can be spread by young children more than previous variants. Positivity and hospitalization rates in children have increased nationwide. Minnesota is not projected to hit our next peak for this wave of Covid-19 until later this month. That means that Carlton County could be reaching our peak positivity rates right before we start school, and we may see positive cases showing up at school for another few weeks. The risk will continue for my second-grader until she completes two doses of the vaccine, which will probably won't be until at least next spring.

"If there is no virtual option for Cloquet, I will have to pull her from the school system this year. I'm thankful there are private, online schools in Minnesota and that I can afford to hire a tutor. But others may not have the financial resources to do this, and we could see another year of learning loss in families that are not able (or willing) to risk sending their unvaccinated children to school. If the board decides to make masks optional, it will disproportionately impact families with immune-compromised members, disabilities and those with young children.

"I hope the board has considered all of these impacts and does not just bend towards the squeaky wheel of public opinion. Leaders often have to make unpopular decisions that are for the best for the entire community they serve. Thank you for your consideration, and for your service to the school system."

I didn't sign the letter, and Tara didn't show it to me until after she sent it. It's a well-reasoned letter, but the real issue is this: my wife won't risk my daughter's health because of an unsafe Covid environment. No parent should risk letting their child contract the disease and suffer through it, when wearing a mask has been proven to slow the rate of infection. It's a no-brainer, and I'm glad the board decided this week to require masks.

Pete Radosevich is the publisher of the Pine Knot News and an attorney in Esko who hosts the cable access talk show Harry's Gang on CAT-7. His opinions are his own. Contact him at [email protected].