Tennessee makes headlines after reporting that children make up 36% of the state’s COVID-19 cases
As the U.S. struggles to contain the highly contagious Delta variant and schools return to in-person learning, the COVID-19 crisis is hitting the unvaccinated populations the hardest and unfortunately that means children are being affected by COVID-19 more now than ever before. Case in point: Children now make up 36% of Tennessee’s COVID-19 cases.
“We had 14,000 pediatric cases in the last seven days, which is a 57% increase over the week prior,” Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said Wednesday (via Huffington Post). “Right now, 36% of all of our cases in the state are among children when it’s historically been in the 10 to 15% range.”
Despite the fact the Delta variant is infecting kids at rates never seen before, the Tennessee governor is not putting COVID-19 safety measures in place that would actually protect children.
Earlier this month, Governor Bill Lee signed an executive order letting parents opt their children out of mask mandates in K-12 schools. His executive order basically renders any mask mandate meaningless as parents can “opt their child out of a local mask mandate enacted by a school or health board” as “no one cares more about the health and well-being of a child than a parent.”
However, the Republican governor was talking out both sides of his mouth and said yesterday, in light of the sobering news about the skyrocketing COVID-19 cases in kids, that kids should wear masks in schools to stay safe. “If you want to protect your kid from the virus or from quarantine, the best way to do that is to have your kid in school with a mask. At the same time, I fundamentally believe parents should individually make that decision for their children,” Lee said during the press conference.
Loosely translated from Republican governor speak to actual English, his statement basically amounts to: “The smartest thing you can do is wear a mask, but I can’t make you do that, because I know you’ve read some memes on Facebook that tell you otherwise.”
Despite the Governor’s common sense suggestion with mask-wearing in schools, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the kids in Tennessee will be that safe after all, because the governor gave all the power to the parents to make decisions about mask-wearing in classrooms.
Also, when asked at a press conference if he would give schools the option to offer virtual learning again, he said, “We don’t have any plans to do that yet.” Despite this, many schools are continually forced to shut down or go into quarantine mode, due to the sheer number of students testing positive for the virus.
Compound this with the fact that very few Tennessee schools have mask mandates to begin with and the fact that the state has only vaccinated 41% of its population (among the lowest in the country), and this whole situation isn’t looking great.