These Army kids aren't affected. Lucky them, their school's in Germany. Photo by Bianca Sowders., USAG Ansbach.

Even though the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said pretty darn clearly that people who aren't vaccinated against COVID-19 should continue social distancing and wearing masks indoors, Republican state leaders have rushed to ban schools and cities from mandating masks at all. It started, as bad ideas so often do, in Texas, where Gov Greg Abbott on Tuesday prohibited schools from requiring masks, because whether or not to behave safely should be up to the individual. Strangely, the state's speed limits and traffic laws remain in place, if only to generate revenue through fines.

Since then, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed a state law prohibiting mask mandates from being put in place by cities, or by school administrators at any level, proclaiming in a statement that Iowa was

putting parents back in control of their child's education and taking greater steps to protect the rights of all Iowans to make their own health care decisions. I am proud to be a governor of a state that values personal responsibility and individual liberties.

In addition, Montana's state school superintendent, Elsie Arntzen, issued a memo Wednesday requiring that all school mask mandates be ended by the start of the 2021-22 school year, and urging schools to wind down mask requirements for the remainder of the current school year, too. Arntzen's memo calls attention to a February executive order issued by Gov. Greg Gianforte telling schools to follow "guidelines and best practices" from the CDC and the state Office of Public Instruction (OPI), Arntzen's agency.

This is particularly weird, since in the very same memo, Arntzen directly contradicts the CDC by calling on schools to stop masking.


With the poetic indifference to public health typical of Republican officeholders, Arntzen's memo proclaimed, Teacher Gorbachev, Tear Down These Masks!

We cannot enter another school year subjecting our students to any additional loss of instructional time. We also cannot perpetuate the notion that masks will be a permanent feature in our state's classrooms. I encourage you to evaluate your policies and work toward removing masks wherever possible.

She also wrote that OPI

strongly recommends that school districts across Montana rescind, or allow to expire, any existing face covering mandates, and develop policies that make the wearing of face masks and other coverings optional, voluntary, and a matter of family choice.

You will not be surprised in the least to learn that no, Arntzen doesn't actually offer any medical or other reason for ending masking in schools. It just needs to be done, because. Freedom 'n' things.

We should note this isn't Arntzen's first rodeo without a bandanna, either. Last August, she complained loudly when then-Gov. Steve Bullock extended the state's mask mandate to include schools, claiming her office hadn't been consulted. Bullock's office responded that the superintendent and her staff had been included in weekly meetings, and that when asked for input on a masking recommendation, she had refused to suggest any guidelines. She countered that Bullock, a Democrat who was running for US Senate, was "putting politics into a pandemic" because he had endorsed her Democratic opponent. Yeah, that's how Democrats mostly approached the pandemic, for sure, using policy for the sake of settling personal scores.

Yesterday, the Montana chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics responded to Arntzen's memo with a letter to Gov. Greg Gianforte calling on him to keep school mask requirements in place for what's left of the school year, and possibly into the fall, because if you're going to say schools should follow CDC guidelines, then follow the damn guidelines.

The pediatricians' letter reminded Gianforte of his call for schools to follow those "school guidelines and best practices recommended by the CDC" and by OPI, then cites Arntzen's call this week for mask requirements to go away. The doctors gently remind Gianforte there's a bit of a problem following both agencies' directives, now isn't there, chief?

The CDC's statement this month that fully vaccinated people may resume most activities without wearing a mask applies only to people who are FULLY VACCINATED.

And no, the CDC hasn't yet recommended that school personnel or students stop wearing masks. Beyond that, the letter notes, not even the CDC's recent approval of the Pfizer vaccine for kids 12-15 would make any difference to masking in schools, since it's so recent that kids now getting vaccinated won't reach full immunity until after the end of the school year, and the vaccine will probably not have been approved for kids under 12 until some time after school begins again in the fall.

The letter closes, in bold type,

We empathize with the desire to return to normalcy, however since most school-aged children will not have the opportunity to be vaccinated, we unequivocally recommend that Montana schools continue to require masks at this time. We believe that increasing vaccination rates among our children will decrease COVID-19 and allow them to remain in school, while removing the mask mandates in school will have the opposite effect. If our goal is to improve the mental and physical health of our children, let us encourage vaccination while maintaining mask use in schools.

"You pillock," the pediatricians did not add, but could have.

[KCCI / NBC Montana / Arntzen Memo (PDF) / Montana Public Radio / Photo: US Army, public domain ]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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